Saturday, September 11, 2021

Even 20 years later, most of us have a 9/11 story

NOTE: The following post ran six years ago today. I was going to write something comparing the relative societal impacts of COVID and September 11th, but then I realized I have no idea what I'm talking about. So instead I hope you don't mind if I recycle this little missive. I do wonder, though, how we'll all look back on both events (if you want to call COVID an "event") 30 years from now. Time and memory do funny things...

Fourteen years ago today was one of the strangest 24-hour periods I've ever experienced (ANOTHER NOTE: Again, remember this post first appeared in 2015 when it had been only 14 years since 9/11.)

It was the day of the September 11th terrorist attacks, of course, and it was one of the few times in life when virtually nothing that happened would have surprised me.

I was working at the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital for Rehabilitation, and the first inkling my office-mate Heidi and I had that something might be wrong was when a nurse came running down the hall saying, "They bombed the Pentagon!"

That wasn't quite true, but close enough. First came news of the World Trade Center being hit, then being hit again, then a tower collapsing, then the other tower following suit. Then reports of a plane crashing into the Pentagon, which I recall it took a while to confirm.

Then came rumors that a plane may be headed for Cleveland. In truth, the plane flew over Cleveland and eventually crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

If you didn't experience it, you have to understand how all of these events happened one on top of the other. Bad news followed by bad news.

After a short time, we would have believed almost anything.

Offices in Downtown Cleveland closed in case the city really was being targeted (no one knew for sure), and I think they eventually shut down our hospital, too.

Rumors were that the price of gas might triple or worse, so my family and I waited in a long line at a local Shell station that evening to get gas in our minivan before the jump, which never actually occurred.

The entire U.S. air traffic system was shut down. No one could fly in and out of anywhere for a few days.

That night we attended a prayer service at our church. There was a lot of emotion but also a stoic courage in the eyes of fellow believers that I'll never forget. Jesus could have returned to earth and I wouldn't have been shocked.

Eventually life returned to something resembling normal, though it seemed to take weeks and weeks, and the world hasn't been quite the same to me since.

It was, I suppose, my generation's "Where Were You When JFK Was Shot?" moment.

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