9.11.2006

9/11 Looking Back

It has always been my habit to turn on the news when I get up in the morning. I’m a former television news reporter. It was my way of catching up on what may have happened overnight as a way of preparing me for what I might have to deal with when I went to work.

I was no longer a reporter on Sept 11, 2001. I had retired in 1999. But old habits die hard. I got up about 8:30am and turned on CNN as always. I didn’t have to prepare for work, but I’m still a news junkie.

The first pictures that I saw were of a hole that looked like an airplane in the side of the World Trade Center tower. I called my sister. I needed a witness to what I was seeing. She turned on her TV and while we sat there, me in Cincinnati and she in Myrtle Beach, we watched the second plane crash.

We watched all day, talking to each other, clicking out to talk to other people and finally to sit there alone, stunned. I don’t remember moving, not to walk my dogs, go to the bathroom, or to get something to eat.

I felt helpless. Despite being retired, my first reaction was to respond, to go to work, to get the story. I felt the adrenalin rush. But I couldn’t do that anymore. I was on the sidelines for the first time in a very long time. I was a spectator in a game that I had previously played very well.

One of the things I know about myself, is that it is much easier for me to stand in the middle of chaos and crisis then it is to endure it from the outside, watching. I am emotionless in the eye of the storm. My emotional collapse always comes when story ends.

When I go home and shut the door, the processing of what I’d just seen and done begins. Sometimes, I get over it quickly. Other stories stay for years and manifest as memories when I least expect them. It usually happens when I write.

9/11 is a story that has never left. I and we, as a people are still processing this one. No matter where we were at the time of the incident, we were affected.

I told myself this morning, five years later, that I would not write about 9/11. I told myself I would not watch the rehashes that will go on all day on 24 hour cable news. I told myself I would not again watch the video of the planes into the tower, even though I know that some of it was shot by one of my closest friends in the whole world. He was on a roof top all day long.

But here I sit, watching and writing, going against my instincts that tell me I should turn this off and put down this computer. I should go do something else, work in my neglected gardens, take my dogs for a walk, cut the lawn. But I can’t.

I remember at one point, still sitting there and realizing that tears were streaming down my face. I don’t remember crying, I just remember the wetness on my face.

Five years later my face is wet again. The tears have not yet dried.
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