Friday, September 11, 2009

I wrapped myself in a blanket - A personal memoir from 9/11

(Some of you may have read this one before as I have posted it before... but since today is 9/11, I wanted to post it again.)

Note: The following story is not a political piece in any way, shape or form. It's simply a reflection of emotions and thoughts I had after the 9/11 tragedy happened. Like many authors and creative beings, I dealt with it through writing.

It's not that I want to remember these bad times so badly... it's just that I think it's important to bring it back now and then so we don't forget the emotions and the unity and everything we experienced as a nation in the wake of 9/11. This is not a master piece. It's just a random blurb of emotions and thoughts.

"I wrapped myself in a blanket and woke up to a war zone."

It was late Monday night. I started yawning louder and louder and finally I brushed my teeth and went to bed. As always I wrapped my big soft comforter around me, fluffed my pillows and sunk my head into them. I snuggled up to my husband and closed my eyes, soon enough I was sound asleep. On the opposite end of the country, someone else was just getting out of bed as I tucked myself in. Performing her usual morning ritual, she made her morning coffee and read the morning newspaper before it was time to wake the kids and her husband and get them all out the door. As her kitchen started populating and coming alive, she watched as her kids fought over the last scoop of cocoa puffs, and her husband was on his cell phone while getting ready for the day's meetings. A car horn honked from outside and he looked at his watch and sprung from his chair. He normally carpooled to work with a couple of friends. They all worked in the same building, so it made sense.
"My ride is here. I'm late,” he said."I'll be back late tonight, who knows how long these meetings will last." He gave his wife a quick kiss on his way out. She was standing on the doorstep, waving until the car had disappeared into the horizon, then she went inside to get the kids dressed and sent off to school.

In a hotel room not far away, a business man was packing his suitcases. His eyes softened as he picked up the bright red fire truck he had bought for his son, the stuffed animal he had picked out for his daughter and the diamond earrings he had gotten for his wife. Gently he caressed each gift and a smile spread across his face as his thoughts went home to them. Then he packed up the last items and zipped up his suitcase.

Two doors down from him, yet another hotel guest was busy packing their suitcases as well. He spoke on the phone in a foreign angry language. Sweat was breaking out on his forehead. He tried wiping it away with a restless arm, but new sweat kept pouring out. His hands shook violently as he packed his shaving kit and dropped it into his carry-on luggage. He was constantly looking at his watch. A sly smile spread across his dark face as he left the hotel room and flagged down a taxi. With his hand he patted the outside of his jacket to make sure the plane tickets were still there on his inner pockets. Boy, wouldn't it have been embarrassing to forget the tickets. "Master would be displeased with me," he mumbled. "But master will be pleased with me." His phone rang and his stomach turned. He felt like throwing up all of a sudden. His partners were already waiting for him. He waved at them as he entered the airport. They all looked at their watches. Nervously. But they were excited when they headed for the check-in line. They had a flight to catch.

I was sleeping. People were kissing goodbye before scattering in every direction. Some even scattered before they saw each other that day. Friends and families were saying their good-byes at the airport.

"Call me when you get there to let me know you're safe"

And I was peacefully asleep; unaware of how busy our country was in another time zone. I probably had a nice dream. I don't remember. All I remember was quiet. All I remember was the earth shattering sound of the telephone, cutting like a knife into my comfortable world of dreams and relaxation. From a distance I heard the answering machine pick up and I heard our friends’ voice.

"Oh my God!"

The seriousness and desperation in his voice slowly woke me up. I thought he was in trouble somehow. And he was. We all were. Vaguely I heard something about New York being on fire. I didn't understand what was happening. My husband grabbed the remote and flicked the TV on, just to see one of America's landmarks on fire. Still struggling to wake up, still struggling to understand what I was seeing there, I witnessed the second tower of the world trade center collapse like a row of dominos pieces. And there were people inside.


People talking on the phones with their clients. People chatting with their fellow colleagues, discussing where to have lunch. People writing up reports while thinking of their wives and girlfriends, fondly remembering what a good time they had last night, making sweet love in the candle light after a nice dinner and perhaps wondering if he should buy her a rose bouquet on his way home from work. Or would she prefer chocolate instead? Fathers thinking about how they have to get out of work early tonight because they have to take their kids to soccer practice. People in meetings, discussing how to get as much money as possible out of their new clients, how to best please and suck up to someone to land that million dollar contract that's floating around and is up for grabs. Women! Some married, some single. Some wondering if he will call them back after last night's date, or if that was the first and last time they saw him. Tourists. Tourists who have been saving up for years to finally be able to visit the United States, enjoying a piece of the big apple before they move on to other destinations. And then. Nothing matters. They didn’t have lunch that day. He never made it home early for his kids’ soccer practice and at home sat his wife, who would never receive his roses. Everybody lost out on that million-dollar contract. She never received the phone call from the guy she was out with last night, or if she did, she wasn’t there anymore to pick up the phone. We were left with terrible grief and a billion thoughts whirling around in our minds.

I'm angry. I'm angry because someone is so heartless and so evil and such a big coward, that he sends other people to die for him, to kill thousands of people, to break up thousands of families. To break our hearts. I'm angry because he used other human lives as weapons; ingeniously he programmed them and sent them out to kill. These people, because of him, that is all they know. And they think they are doing something good, they think that killing thousands of people gets them in favor with God. And he himself sits in his cave without getting his hands dirty, mastering his puppets. Because it's a puppet show. They are nothing but puppets. He is the master. They are his puppets. He pulls the strings. And they dance.

I'm scared. I'm scared because someone with great intelligence, a great sense of perfection and coordination, was able to plan this and execute this, without anyone knowing about it. They all kept quiet. Yes, hints were dropped. But who would take it seriously. And if anyone took it seriously, who would've known. Just who … apart from the puppet master … would know. Not even the puppets knew. They were nothing but cold steel weapons in the hands of an assassin. And it scares me, because what if he has other tricks like these up his sleeve. No matter how prepared we could have been, can we ever be prepared enough? Is it possible?

I feel privileged. I feel privileged because I still wake up every morning next to the person I love with all my heart. I feel privileged because I can still tell him every night and every day how much I love him. I feel privileged because I have friends around me, who I can talk to, who I can hang with, and we comfort each other. I feel privileged because every morning I wake up and my dog is there, wagging her tail, just happy to see me. She has nothing but good in her heart, she doesn't know evil the way we do. She just wants to love us. And that's a privilege. To be loved.

I'm proud. I’m proud of the way everyone is handling this catastrophe. I’m proud of how fast planes were grounded and how they probably prevented this disaster from growing even bigger. I'm extremely proud of our firefighters, police men and emergency crews. How they faithfully work day and night to find survivors and bodies. How they see horrible things in this line of duty that will haunt them for years to come, yet they keep digging. Faithfully. Hopefully. I can't begin to imagine what their nightmares are going to be for the rest of their lives and I pray that people will never forget to support them and listen to them for the rest of their lives, to help ease the pain. I bow my head in respect. I'm very proud of the President of the United States. The pain he must be feeling inside is as great, if not greater than each and every one of us. Yet he stands strong and firm on his podium, leading the nation through this crisis with a firm and strong hand, while planning on how to respond, seeking to please and seeking to revenge. Yet he too is nothing but a man, flesh and blood, with feelings and emotions like the rest of us. I'm proud of news reporters. They are working day and night, bringing the nation together from east to west, so we are all able to unite somehow, and mourn together. They work 24/7 to bring us the latest, to make sure we know what is going on. They bring us all the emotions and they reassure us that we are all a part of a big and strong unity.

I feel helpless. There is so much I want to do. I want to take each and every one of the victims in my arms. I want to hug them, comfort them, make sure they know that they have support from the entire world. Yet no words can ease their pain, no words can bring back their loved ones. This empty hole they have inside of them will be a part of them from now on. Maybe it will fill up little by little, but it will never fully close. I see the pictures on TV, I see people crying and asking for information on their loved ones. And all I can do is bow my head and cry with them. I feel guilty.

I feel guilty because I'm thinking about myself and mundane situations that I need to take care of, when there's families that have been torn apart for no reason. I feel guilty for thinking about the WebPages that I need to get done, what is a webpage, what is a business, its nothing but cold money. I feel bad for being upset over the fact that my parents aren't gonna make it out here to visit me, yet so many people aren't ever going to see their parents again. Or their kids. Their husbands, their wives, their brothers and sisters and friends. And there's sadness. There's tears threatening to break through every moment I hear the national anthem, every time I hear a memorial song or see another picture of another victim.

I just want to wrap up in my blanket and go to sleep again, just to wake up to a normal Tuesday. But the giant empty hole in the Manhattan skyline is a constant reminder. If I wrap myself in the blanket and go to sleep, I will still wake up to this horrifying sight that has been haunting us for days. The world will never be the same.

God bless America.

© Laila Roknian 2001 - no permission is granted for reproduction in any manner