Consider This! | Conservative political commentary in 10 minutes or less
Episode 321: 9/11 20 Years On
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since the devastating terror attack on September 11, 2001. The memories seem so fresh. But are they?
In this episode you’ll hear my memories, a listener’s memories, and a Romanian’s ruminations on how we came together in the days following.
One man’s ‘mirror for America’ (November 6th, 2001)
“They weren’t Canadian.”
These were the first words that I heard when I picked up the phone in my cubicle and said, “Hello, Doug Payton.” I recognized the voice as someone from our Canadian office. “What?”, I stammered, taken a little aback at the unusual greeting.
“They weren’t Canadian.” he repeated. “What weren’t Canadian?” I asked. “The planes.” he replied. “What planes?” I asked. And that’s when I found out that something was disastrously wrong. By this time, both towers had been hit. I tried to bring up various news sites on the web to find out what was happening, but apparently everyone else in the country, and much of the world, was doing the same thing. My web browser just showed me error after error. At one point I managed to get the top portion of The Drudge Report to load, and his headline screamed, “Who did this?”
I remember the voice mail I got at the office from my wife telling me to listen to the news. I remember hearing people in other cubicles relay news reported to them from spouses or friends over the phone (some of which turned out to be wrong). I remember thinking that when the towers came down the death toll could reach into 5 figures. (I remember being so grateful later on that it wasn’t.) I remember my boss telling everyone to go home. I remember watching TV pretty much the rest of the day. I remember when my kids got home from school and we talked about what had happened.
My kids took it well. They asked questions, and I answered them the best that I could. I’ve always tried to instill a sense of history in them when interesting things happened (we talked a lot about the 2000 election debacle), but in this case there was history mixed with a sadness, even a reverence, for those who just went to work that day and never came home.
One of my daughters was studying the state of New York in school and had recently decided to do a diorama of New York City. When it came time to do the buildings, I was going to print out a picture of the skyline, which we’d cut up and give a 3-D look to. When we asked her whether she wanted the Twin Towers there or not, she thought for a second and decided that she wanted them to be in there. She and her sister had visited the Twin Towers a couple years earlier with their aunt from Queens, and they remember looking out from the top.
Sometime after the clean-up at Ground Zero was finished, I took my 3 oldest kids there. I have some pictures of them there, as well as the perfectly-proportioned cross made of steel beams that was found in the wreckage, standing tall in the midst of what should have been two tall towers and thousands of people. Again, I was trying to instill a sense of the historic in them.
I have a lot of memories from 9/11, but not nearly as many as others. One of my brothers-in-law was stuck in downtown Manhattan for 3 straight days. He did maintenance work at a hospital, and for him to leave would have meant putting patients in peril, so he stayed. When he did come home, he ate, slept, and went right back. You want memories? He’s got ’em, and they’re far more emotional than mine.
So 20 years on, we’re remembering the day, each in our own way, based on our own memories. But we, as a nation, have a corporate memory as well; the sum total of all of our thoughts and experiences. This national memory sometimes fades, in and out, especially as the time passes.