Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It's Been Six Years ... Freedom Walk

Today is September 11, 2007. It has been six years. How I do remember that day... in 2001.

The sky was a brilliant blue and there wasn't a cloud in sight. It was quiet and peaceful. The ride into work that Tuesday morning was a smooth one UNTIL I was minutes away from my destination and the news came over the radio that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in NY. I thought "What?". I parked my car and went into work. People were milling around and everyone was talking in a low tone. Then an announcement came over the speakers that a second plane has just crashed into the other tower. All hell broke loose - chaos was everywhere (I work for a Defense Contractor company). The management was scrambling to find TVs to bring out and turn on (we only used them for training usually). Eventually, a few were located and they actually had to run "homemade antennas" out into the parking lot because the reception was not very good. Nothing was getting done - everyone was trying to find out what was going on. A bunch of us went out to the parking lot for a change of scenery (and so the smokers could light one up!) It was eerily quiet. Then we heard a loud noise that just echoed through the air. We all went inside shortly after seeing a bunch of planes go over our building. I worked very close to an airfield that is on an Army base. We got inside and were told that a plane had just crashed into the Pentagon. I worked about 11 miles south of the Pentagon. The noise we had just heard was the impact of the plane crashing into the building. I will NEVER forget that sound. It wasn't extremely loud, just very pronounced at an otherwise hushed moment.

The phones weren't working very well (hit or miss when trying to dial out) and cell phone reception was just about non-existent. Both of my boys worked in Arlington at the time and I spent hours trying to get through to their job. Finally, I spoke to one of them and then I felt OK. They were both OK. They heard the roar of the plane flying real low - they heard the impact and felt the earth shake. They weren't in the path of the plane, but pretty damn close to it.

I had moved into my townhouse on September 8, 2001. Just 3 days before the world changed forever. As I got home that evening, I thought to myself "Please God, don't let anything else happen today. I want to live in my new house at least a month before tragedy strikes again. I live less than 25 miles from the Pentagon. Flight 93 was rumored to have been headed to either the White House or the Capitol. No one knew if the terrorist attacks were going to continue. Thank God, there weren't any more BAD planes in the skies for the rest of that day.

Sunday, September 9, 2007 Freedom Walk sponsored by America Supports You

I gave up my opportunity to sleep in on Sunday morning and instead got up before the sun came up. My neighbor and I left at 7AM and headed up the road to catch the Metro into DC to participate in the third annual Freedom Walk. The Freedom Walk honors the victims of September 11, provides an opportunity to reflect on our freedoms, and pays tribute to our veterans, past and present. The Freedom Walk in Washington, DC begun at the Lincoln Memorial and continued over the Memorial Bridge to the Pentagon crash site.

My neighbor and I got off the Metro at the Foggy Bottom station which comes up into the campus of George Washington University. From there we had to walk six blocks down to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. My neighbor and I are bebopping down the sidewalk, just chatting away and I hear a woman say "Are you OK?" I am wondering - who is she talking to - and in what seemed like slow motion, I hit the ground - left knee and right palm - with a thud! DUH - she was talking to me as she saw me start to lunge forward and because it happened so quickly, I didn't realize I was falling. I got right up and brushed myself off and looked behind me. The sidewalk had sunken in and the corner of it was sticking up off the ground about 4 inches. I evidently stepped right on it and then was propelled forward - looking much like Superman (I am told) flying through the air!! Being a bit embarrassed (lots of folks walking behind us), I just got up and kept on walking. We got down to the Mall and picked up our t-shirts and proceeded to head towards the starting point. (I have pictures of the Freedom Walk, but can't post them at the moment because I am not at home and this computer doesn't have a slot for my kind of memory card!!)( I am dog-sitting for SJ's in-laws because they all are headed for Hawaii in the morning)

Anyways, back to the walk ...I looked at Kit and said "I think blood is running down my leg". I looked down and sure enough the knee area of my capris is soaked with blood. Kit freaks out and goes up to a police officer and asks if there is a first aid station close by. He didn't know but went over to some others that were around and then directs us to go down along the Reflecting Pool and there should be one next to the port-a-potties. Off we go - we get down there and see a DC ambulance. That's the first aid station! We wrap on the window to wake up the two guys in it and they direct me to enter the door on the side. The nice lady inside cleans up my knee (and hand), asks me when was the last time I had a tetanus shot (hell if I know) and tells me that I did a good job. Multiple puncture wounds and it looks pretty deep. Probably needs a stitch or two but she can't tell me that I need them (HUH?). She pulls out numerous gauze pads and folds them over in half and tapes them to my knee using what seems like the entire roll of tape. I tell her Thank You and I climb out. Off to the starting area, we go - to wait.

We listened to the opening speeches, a military band played and a woman sang an incredible rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and then observe a moment of silence. Thousands and thousands of people gathered there and you could have heard a pin drop. Family members of the victims lined up behind the Honor Guard and the walk started at 9:15. We walked to and then across the Memorial Bridge and down the street towards the Pentagon. As we rounded that last bend, you caught glimpse of the huge flag hanging off the side of the Pentagon just to the right of the crash site. Even though I was feeling a little pain in my knee, this was the sight that I had to see on this day. The closer we got, the quieter it got ... and all the horrible sights of that day come back to you in an instant. Tears well up in your eyes ... you stop and say a silent prayer for those who lost their lives that day ... then continue on.

As we entered the parking lot to the Pentagon, we were handed a card that said "THANK YOU for participating in the America Supports You Freedom Walk." I stuck around for a while so I could take the tour of the Memorial Chapel that was built inside the Pentagon at the crash site. It was awesome. I got to see the blackened stone up close and personal. I got to see the construction site of the America's Heroes Memorial.

I will continue this post in a day or so when I have access to my pictures. The pictures make what I have just told you about the Walk so much more realistic.

On the news this evening they were broadcasting part of some one's speech at a memorial service. I can't remember who he was or where he was, but part of what he said has stayed in my mind all evening. "Today, we can not hug our loved ones, so we must ask God to do it for us."

Late this afternoon, I watched Oprah - The Children of September 11. Needless to say, there were tears streaming down my cheeks by the time the show had ended.



Heather J said...

I can't imagine what that must have been like, to be so close. It makes my insides shiver just reading the way you described it. I can remember waking up, the tv was on and seeing a plane crash, turning the channels, they were all the same and finally realizing what was going on. (Volume helped)

It was so scary. And there's a deep sadness that will never go away each time you remember it.

Sorry you got hurt...I suppose it had to be strange, doing the walk honoring those that died and you get hurt. How hard it must have been not get consumed in your own pain when you were there for the pain of others. I wish I could have done this walk too!

Wendy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wendy said...

wow! I can't wait to see the pictures!

I too watched Oprah, and Wesley asked me why I was crying...I never really told him about 9.11, so I told him simply what had happened because I didn't want to scare him. I would rather he hear it fromme instead of some other kid or TV show!

Rachel said...

I wish I could have been there to walk with you. I am glad you weren't seriously hurt.

I watched a show last night on MSNBC, I think, called September 11 As It Happened. Basically it was video from the beginning of that day. The live video that was playing as it was happening. It was so surreal. I just sat there. And I cried. It's still such a fresh wound to this country.

SJ said...

As I said in my previous comment, will you take me to the Memorial Chapel, and the blackened stone and the America's Heroes Memorial when I am in town next time?

I will never forget that day. Never.