Archive for September, 2011

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10 Years Later

September 11, 2011

I remember the morning clearly. It was dark when I left for work. I had to be there by 6:00 a.m. By the time I left for work, American Airlines Flight 11 had already been hijacked and had been crashed into Tower 1. By the time I clocked in United Airlines Flight 175 had already crashed into the South Tower.

For two hours we stocked shelves. The morning mix of top 90s played quietly over the sound system. It wasn’t until the 8:00 a.m. crew came in and told us that we were at war. I remember what I was doing when Gretchen, the blonde who worked the front counter, relayed the news — I was stocking bras.

It was crazy. No one knew anything. I heard that the Space Needle had been destroyed. That a building in California had been hit. Someone said that something had happened in Europe. Some of us watched it unfold on a small TV in the manager’s office. I stayed in the stockroom and cracked jokes with Chris. I was 19. And stupid. And didn’t know better. I joked that Cheney would have a heart attack. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know how bad it was.

My lunch break was at 10:00 a.m. I drove home in my mother’s minivan. I watched the Towers collapse, over and over again. I saw the planes fly into the tower. I saw the horror loop over and over again.

It was one of my last days of work for the summer. And we had been planning to go out later. I picked up my colleague Heidi around 8. My mother didn’t want me to leave. Then we drove out to Kennewick. We stopped at the store to buy mixers. We played cards while four talking heads on TV debated what 9/11 was going to mean. Jodi crashed. Chris and Heidi smoked pot. I left around midnight.

When I got to college it was a welcomed relief of trivial distractions. No TV, no Internet, no endless coverage of 9/11. While some students debated if Osama bin Laden was the anti-christ, most of the time it was all about college life.

And 10 years later I remember more of the silly college life antics than the aftermath of 9/11. There was the ski trip. The fight between my roommate and his girlfriend and another close friend. There was my reign as dorm president. There was Thursday nights watching Friends. There was the bad college food. There was the Homecoming Parade. And there was the time I cut Kendra’s hair off for cancer.

9/11 reminded me how fragile life can be. How one beautiful Tuesday morning you board an early morning flight to go across country and you never make it. But you can try to lead a well-purposed life. You can work to improve your community. You can help those in need.

I ended up back at the store over Christmas. And Gretchen, the blonde at the front counter, and I went on a date. We saw a movie and we made out in her car. We held hands as she drove me around. She ripped off the corner of her car’s owner manual and wrote down her phone number. She was moving to Las Vegas. She needed to leave. She needed to get out of this place. Something changed inside of her. A month later, she called me outside of Las Vegas, she was happy. She had made the right decision. She told me that she needed to leave me behind too. Years later, throughout my many, many dates, I heard this story over and over again. The need to move after 9/11. The need to reinvent yourself. After your foundation has been drastically altered maybe reinvention is required. My journey didn’t require a cross country move but I know I am not the same person as I was. I wonder how much of my journey is from 9/11 or if it would have happened anyway with my escape to college. I will never know. But sometimes there is beauty in not knowing.

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