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Do you remember where you were and what you were doing?
The picture associated with this podcast episode shows exactly where I was standing on September 11, 2001 at 9:37 a.m.
And, I’m one of the lucky ones.
I was supposed to be walking on the sidewalk right at the Pentagon crash site at that moment, but I was delayed about 15 minutes when I turned on the tv to see what all the commotion was about in New York.
My life was spared. Others lives were not.
Some years I don’t spend more than a minute thinking about that day.
This year is not one of them. Against my desire, it suddenly hit me that I wanted to delve into some of the memories and emotions of that day and the year that followed (e.g. remember the anthrax attacks and then the snipper all part of the Washington DC experience in 2001 – 2002).
This episode was recorded spur of the moment this week after I read an old journal entry and blogpost that I decided to share. And, I tuned in to watch a funeral of a family friend that worked very hard a a dispatcher these past few years which somehow brought to the forefront gratitude and emotions surrounding those that are constantly seeking to protect, serve, and help all the rest of us on a daily basis.
As I share in this episode, in the 30 minutes before the Pentagon was hit I had an overwhelming feeling that I would remember that day for the rest of my life.
Twenty years later, that feeling continues to prove true.
#911 #september112001 #remembering911 #terrorists #freedom #firstresponders #pentagon #pentagonattack #moveyourdesk #podcast #gratitude #publicservice #military #twintowers #shanksvillepa #postraumaticstress #ptsd
Episode 126 Show Notes
- All photos shared in this page are my own from the week of September 11, 2001
- Timeline – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_11_attacks
Episode 126 Transcript
this is Rebecca clark Episode 1 26, Remembering 911. This podcast is for anyone that knows they haven’t yet found and offered up their best work but are compelled to seek it out and do it. Are you ready to move your desk? Yeah, mm hmm. This week a family member sent me a link to watch a funeral that I had not attended in person and this funeral was for Wendy Rock And she’s a woman in her 40’s. She has three Children and she was a dispatcher for Hamilton County dispatch and she worked the night shift and she had various illnesses and she passed away this past week. It was a wonderful funeral and she’s a wonderful person. I was older than she was, but my siblings knew her well and spent some teenage years with her, but I had connected with her on social media and enjoyed many of her posts. And she had opened up privately to me about some things, funerals are always full of emotions, aren’t they? As you remember the person and you reflect on what you’re doing with your life and have hope that you will continue to offer up your best self to the world and grateful. Do you have another day to do it at the end of the funeral, one of the dispatchers got up and I, I’m admitting this is an emotional episode for several reasons. But um, I didn’t realize I’d have it right now, but at the end, one of the dispatchers that was one of her closest friends got up to the pulpit and played the recording that goes out to those that are in jobs that are police and firefighter and dispatcher related jobs where they kind of do this long drawn out beep and they are asking for a certain person to report and they’re not reporting and then they say kind things about them and share with everyone that they have passed away and that essentially they appreciate them and they will take over the duties that that person left. And for some reason mixed up in all of the emotions of remembering her thinking about what’s going to happen with her family and wondering what will happen with mine and how long I will live and what I’ll contribute. I somehow had the thought about how many times this message was sent after september 11th, 2001 with all of the dispatchers and firefighters and first responders and police and other people helping that were involved in that whole experience. And I read an article or two that came across my news feed and realised in reading the articles that we all have such different memories of September 11 and I have shared some of mine over the years, but I was just telling my friend and Watkins the other day that for some reason, some years I don’t even want to deal with it and that sounds really bad to some perhaps, but sometimes I just don’t even want to remember it and yet I’m alive to tell the tale. So obviously I got through it and others did not, but today I wanted to share and I’ve just decided this all of a sudden I wasn’t planning on doing anything special this year to remember. But I keep seeing that it’s 20 years since that day and a lot of people sharing their memories are speaking from when they were in second grade or when they were in college or they heard about it from afar. So I want to share my experience and I rarely read anything but I wanted to read to you a couple of journal entries that I have had related to this experience and share a few thoughts along the way. But the first thing I want to share before anything else is a document I found in my recent d junking that I’ve always kept its a print out of an email and it says from our clark R. Clarke at Teachers, sent Tuesday, 11, 2001 957 am two Brett spode ac and Sharon Doyle subject pentagon bombed. I’m heading out message. I just saw the pentagon bombed as I was looking out the window if you need me dot dot dot I’m not going to be here dot dot dot they may gas the area and so I will be driving a little south. I’m a little in shock. Rebecca clark Director of membership services. Teachers, teachers dot com. This is the email I sent to my boss, I worked from home at that point. I had worked for a couple of corporations and I had emailed the website one day and said, hey, I have a little teaching background, a little recruiting, I love technology, do you need anybody? And he had created a job for me and so I was able to work from home that year. And that’s the message I sent based upon what I felt I saw at the moment and based upon what I thought would happen. And I’ve saved that email because it obviously created a lot of shock in the minds of those who received it. They may or may not have heard that news at that moment. I looked in my journal and I had actually written an entry That I did not finish on Wednesday, 12, 2001. This is far more emotional to share this than I thought. Mhm I do not have access to the internet at this moment, But had to take a few minutes to describe the events of the last 28 hours of my life, The United States has been attacked. They’re looking for those that could have done it and are assuming it was Osama bin laden that had the terrorist group, the tv is still going and it’s so hard to concentrate and write down the events of the day because I’m afraid I will miss important information on Tuesday morning september 11th 2001. I left here around seven a.m. So that I could get to a Robinson secondary school in Fairfax County in time to share information about this brooks and bloom concert that I’ve been working on for Fairfax Access channel 10. I finished at the school and decided to go to George Mason University to put up flyers in the buildings and in the student center. And then I interrupt my own writing to say all of these people are running from the pentagon right now because they think there may be another incoming plane. Unbelievable. And then I go back to writing anyway, I will have to get out of here soon because it is crazy here. I was driving back around 8:45 a.m. And got tired of the country radio station I was listening to. And so I changed it to another station that was talking about a plane that hit one of the world trade centers. It didn’t seem like a big thing, but then another huge plane hit the trade center next to it. And and that’s where I stopped. I don’t know if I wrote about it anymore because I can’t see it in any other journal entries. I didn’t write for a couple months after that, But in 2008 on september 11th I decided to write a blog entry about it. And so I’m going to read that right now. So a little bit of it’s repetitive but I’m going to read it, spelling errors and all seven years ago today I was driving back from George Mason University in the morning and randomly decided to change the radio station during a good country song. It was kind of an odd experience. A reporter was yelling something about an airplane that had hit one of the twin towers in new york. The guy that was interviewing him from the radio station tried to calm him down a bit and like me acted like the reporter was overacting to this little accident. At that point they didn’t know if it was a puddle jumper or something bigger while listening to this, I had driven by the pentagon and was parking my car at my apartment building in Pentagon City. When I walked up to the front entrance, I had a powerful feeling that I would remember the day for the rest of my life. The feeling stayed with me for a few moments and then I hurried upstairs to put on my tennis shoes to take my morning walk past the newly renovated side of the pentagon. While I was putting on my tennis shoes, I decided to turn on the tv just to see if they were talking about the small airplane that had hit the twin towers. To my surprise, it was worse than I expected huge airplane, massive destruction and a general feeling that I was watching a movie clip instead of something that was actually real. It held my attention for a long 15 minutes and so I went into my room to check my email quickly before leaving on my walk. This is when I was working virtually. And so my office was my bedroom. I was living on the 12th floor of an apartment facing that side of the Pentagon. Anyway, I had just turned my back to the computer when I heard a bomb sound and turned and I looked out the shaking windows toward Washington D. C. I didn’t see anything for a few seconds except for a small ball of fire which quickly turned into a towering pillar of smoke. I called my boyfriend and then my friend Shirley. She was working in the national Press Club building at the time surely asked me to take a couple of pictures of the crash. This was the second picture I took. I’m glad she told me to do so because I would have just stood there staring. Mhm. That day turned into something, I don’t remember clearly I talked with a couple of people on the phone but found out later that many others were trying to call me without being able to get through. Many friends were caught up on capitol hill or elsewhere in the city and general gridlock prevailed. We had email trains going around our word asking if everyone was OK and accounted for and we later found out that one man that worked in the pentagon was missing every airplane. Most were fema planes. By the end of the day literally made traffic stop and people turn their heads to the sky paralyzed by the feeling that another crash would occur. It would be that way the next week while the national airport stayed closed to airplane traffic. The oddest thing about the day for me was that I was completely paralyzed toward meaningful action. I couldn’t stop looking out the window, pacing the house, watching the T. V. And wondering what to do. I was doing exactly what I had seen people doing movies and had silently yelled at them to stop hanging around the danger and get away from whatever it was that would hurt them. It was this weird feeling like I must leave but that I must see the next disaster happened over the next few months or even years. I think I felt what post traumatic stress really is and how it can impact day to day life. It didn’t help that. We had the sniper around the area the next year which was even more terrifying on a day to day basis than the 9-11 attacks. We had often joked that we either lived in the safest or most dangerous spot in the world that day. We found out what was more likely many of my friends were in D. C. And new york city. My brother in law worked in new york city at the time and was part of the throngs that walked over to New Jersey trying to find a way home. I don’t think he made it home until that evening but he did make it home. Some of my friends have had the nightmare of working in high rises near the twin towers and could see the expressions on the faces of those falling to their deaths hundreds of feet below. It must be a terrifying experience to remember. It was a horrible day for so many people, so many lost and for no good reason through all the sadness. However, there are many miracles trains not working properly leading into new york that day causing major delays. People staying home for the first day of school to take pictures and be as a family people at the pentagon that randomly left that wing to go get a snack, do an errand or even get a drink at a distant drinking fountain. I experienced my own little miracle as the timing would have placed me squarely at that area of the pentagon. If I had not been sidetracked by the news it’s still kind of gives me chills to think about it. Part of me is still a little numb towards the experience. I don’t understand it. I haven’t fully felt its impact. Seven years later I even sat at the home of brady howl to answer media calls while his wife went through the ordeal of finding out if her husband was alive or dead in the pentagon. He worked there and had a promising future awaiting him. He died. I am grateful that it forced so many of us to think about our lives, our liberties and our beliefs. It instigated many people in the action and into reshaping their priorities and their lives like so many other days in our lives, church christmas, easter birthdays, the new year, difficult or joyous events etcetera. It is a good time to reflect on blessings and areas to improve a time of gratitude, a respectful appreciation for those that passed on, hats off to those that persevere through the pain and for the rest of us may we remember and live as if it is our last day to contribute on this planet. After that experience in Washington D. C. I stayed in Pentagon city for a month or so and then I moved to my parents home for six or eight months and did my virtual work there before returning to the Washington Dc area to start an M. B. A. Program. And then I quickly switched to a different masters degree program after that. And right at the beginning of that program is when the snipers hit northern Virginia D. C. And the Maryland area. And so I returned to A different stressful situation than September 11 because we would literally drive up really close to stores, look every possible direction, run into the stores, get our groceries and be cautious coming out and there were hardly anyone going to the stores because there have been people taken out and parking lots. You could barely get gas for your car because you have to slide right up to the gas pump kind of bend down, put your card in, put the gas in the tank and then lay low because you weren’t sure who was driving by and some of us lived smack dab in the middle of the areas where there were continual attacks happening on a daily basis. It felt like at least as I wrote in my journal, I think this was truly the first time I started to understand what post traumatic stress felt like. I remember being on the sidewalk in Pentagon city walking to the Costco When the first airplane came out of the National Airport after September 11 and it had to have been over a week because it stayed closed longer than other airports I believe. But the car stopped and all of us on the sidewalk stopped and we just looked and we waited and we watched and made sure that nothing was going to happen In the days. Right after September 11 I walked over with different friends to that side of the Pentagon to see all of the different activities taking place there and I have a lot of thoughts that I won’t share hear about it, but amongst all the pain and anguish and horribleness. It was amazing how we all came together for a time we all had a story to share. We all were hugging strangers all of the people in D. C. That never talked to each other, started talking to each other. There was extreme patriotism taking place. There were flags everywhere, there were candles uh thousands of candles in certain spots near the pentagon across the street from it I guess near the Arlington cemetery. Tributes to people I mentioned in the journal entry and I wanted to clarify that one of the personnel in the pentagon did die in the pentagon. That was part of my congregation at church and I volunteered to go sit at their apartment one afternoon to take the media calls and anyone coming to the door and while I was there I got a knock on the door where I don’t remember who it was but the military personnel and others were coming to share with his wife Liz evidence of him and I can’t tell you what that was. It was a badge or it was something that would have been on his person. But they came right while I was sitting there and just all of the different emotions you have at that time. Some of it is a very neutral feeling kind of a zombie kind of feeling. And maybe that’s a feeling that is to protect ourselves from our own emotions at times. But I was grateful to participate in some way. And I’ve gone to the memorials in Washington D. C. And have seen the names and the people I knew and of course I’ve worked for the Department of Defense for many years. So I’ve known people that knew people and to hear the stories that have come from them. A lot of people in the pentagon didn’t know that the building had been hit in any way. It’s such a huge building. If you’ve never been in it it’s full of long hallways. It’s very complex and it goes very deep into the ground. It’s a huge building and structure and they didn’t even know until they got emails or an announcement saying that the building had been struck. So fascinating right That there’s all these people going about doing their work and going to the shopping and the banks and the cafeterias and the pentagon and not realizing that there’s people over in a wing that was supposed to be more secure and stronger that have just died and that the building was on fire and the damage of course you see in pictures is much larger than the actual damage of that day in that moment. But it was larger because the fire spread and of all of the water that was poured onto it by the firefighters how I just wanted to share with you that I had my own 9-11 experience and I can’t believe it was 20 years ago and I can’t believe that that little chill I got that day, that little impression inside that warmed my body for a few minutes actually came true that I would remember that day the rest of my life. And there’s some days I choose not to think about it. And there’s other days where I have triggers where a huge airplane seems out of place and I stopped to watch it to make sure there’s nothing wrong or when I participate in a funeral where I hear a dispatcher sound or when I interact with people in the military and realize that they have faced these kinds of experiences sometimes daily, wherever they serve. And so part of me doesn’t even know what to share after what I’ve already shared except that I am grateful that I’m still here. I’m grateful. I have a chance to continually work on my relationships, my work, my life and whatever it is I feel is important to focus on in this life and I have that chance because deciding to turn on a tv that I never turned on for just a few minutes and that kept me out of harm’s way. And yet at the same time it didn’t keep others out of harm’s way and I guess it was their time to move on. But I hope and I pray, we all can take these experiences in our lives and appreciate that we’re gonna cry and we’re gonna be angry about them, but we can also use them as opportunities to go, okay, I’m still here. I still have an opportunity to step into my capacity to serve to love to grow and not just discover that capacity but choose to pursue it. And as I said in my journal, hats off to all those that were involved in helping others on that day and hugs and prayers for those who lost people, hugs and prayers for those that are still suffering with health issues as result of the events on that day and that all the rest of us will remember and acknowledge and decide what we want to learn from that experience. Thank you for listening. And I’ll talk to you next week. It’s thanks for listening to the show today. If you enjoyed it, I’d love if you’d write a review and share the show with your friends, sign up for a weekly nudge at move your desk dot com. Mhm