(post copyright, 2011, Dawn Weber)
On the TV of the fifth-floor break-room, I watched those towers fall. I was working the morning of September 11, 2001 - you may have been, too. Just as they were.
My co-workers and I gathered around the set, white-faced, looking on as people jumped from the 110-story structures to end it, to escape the building's fiery hell. I wanted them all to get out, get OUT of there. Somehow.
I had visited the roof viewing deck of the World Trade Center just a few years before, in 1998, with a close friend of mine who lives in New York City. I wasn't thrilled about it at all.
"Um, isn't this the place where some guy blew up the Ryder Truck in the basement a while back?" I asked her.
She laughed, told me it would be fine, that I had to see the view.
A New Yorker, you know.
I have never liked tall buildings, and vowed never to work in one. In 2001, I didn't even like working on the fifth floor. Girls like me, from the cornfields, generally don't trust high-rises...too far from the outside and the earth and the...cornfields.
A hillbilly, you know.
As I watched the towers collapse on the TV in Ohio, I wondered how many of those people had been working when I visited in '98. If the lady who sold me my Diet Coke at the Trade Center's rooftop snack bar went to her job that day. If so, she didn't go home that night.
Two Thousand Nine Hundred and Seventy-Seven people did not go home. Ever.
My co-workers and I went home. We didn't have to work the next day, either. I sat on the front porch of my house, in the direct flight path of the Columbus airport, and looked at a sky now empty of its usual jets and vapor trails. Flight 93 had crashed near my sister-in-law's house in Pennsylvania, after reversing its course over the skies of northeast Ohio. Over the skies near my hometown, my mother and my friends and my fields.
The days and months following 9-11 blurred into mostly news coverage, and a while later, I visited my friend in New York City. Although I had talked to her, I wanted to be sure she was OK, that she was really still there. I went to the giant pit - all that was left of the World Trade Center. People in hardhats worked day and night, scooping rubble into dump trucks. I watched at the site as shredded computer paper swayed in the trees.
Then I realized it wasn't paper at all. It was the crumbled remains of the building's metal window blinds, twisted into the branches. I felt a little guilty, a little silly, for my sadness. After all, I was just a woman from the Midwest. I hadn't personally lost anyone in the terrorist attacks, I still had my family and my life and my work.
That changed soon enough. As a direct result of the post 9-11 tanking economy, many of my co-workers and I lost our jobs. Good jobs, close to home. Jobs that never returned.
Life goes on, the way it does. We had a new baby, so staying at home for a couple years became a blessing in disguise. Although the terrorists made sure our country would never be the same, I kept moving forward. You did, too.
In the blink of an eye, ten years have passed. Osama Bin Laden is dead. I work where I swore I never would: the 25th floor of a high-rise, an hour away from my house. I have no choice. Like so many of my laid-off 2002 co-workers, I had a hell of a time finding ANY job, let alone one nearby.
A few weeks ago at work, I watched my pencils roll across my desk for no apparent reason. The metal mini-blinds quivered in the windows of my building. Aftershocks of the earthquake in Virginia. Who'd have thought they'd reach all the way to Ohio? Although I felt somewhat alarmed, I watched the little scene in my office unfold with an almost amused detachment. Since September 11 - and all the tragedies and natural disasters since - nothing surprises me anymore.
The innocence is gone.
But I was O.K., I was lucky. I worked the rest of the day and walked out of my building that night, drove home from work to my family.You probably did, too.
We are Americans. That's who we are. That's what we do.