Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering September 11, 2001

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
2 Chronicles 7:14

I recall having stayed home that morning from work because I had suffered from a migraine headache the previous night, and I wanted to try and rest and recover. I remember going down to the family room and turning on Good Morning America. It was about 8:45 in the morning, and Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer were just signing off for the day, when there was an emergency break and it was announced that an airplane had just flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings. Within 10 minutes or so, they were broadcasting live from the sight… it was at that point … live … that I witnessed the second plane being flown into one of the other WTC buildings. I remember feeling sickened and horrified as I watched. I recall the horror and shock that the news reporters were expressing – it was almost as if they were reading my mind.

Then, it was announced that a plane flew into the Pentagon. And truly, that’s when panic began to sit in. You see, I live in the Suburbs of Washington, D.C., and terrorism was just too close for my comfort. Also, my cell group leader was working at the Pentagon, and my worry for him and his family was immediately elevated. I began praying, and started calling my cell group leader’s wife to see if there was anything I could do. She wasn't home. That meant she probably hadn't heard. So I called her on her cell phone and asked her if she had spoken to her husband recently. She said no, and asked why. That’s when I began to fill her in and urged her to hang up and contact her husband. At the same time, her family, which live in Long Island, NY, were trying to call her as well to let her know that they were okay. God was truly looking over this family. My friend happened to be in Baltimore (about an hour away from the Pentagon) at the time, and was not physically in harms way.

The rest of the day was so surreal. One minute, it was one plane, one tower. The next minute, it was four planes, three buildings, one field, thousands of lives. The images on the television were just hideous. The commentary from the news reporters was frightening. I remember several things from that particular day that just sickened me, but have been permanently engraved in a corner of my brain, and if I close my eyes, I can still clearly picture them in my mind:

~The people streaming out from the buildings covered in soot, dirt, ash, and dust. Coughing, choking, gagging, crying, begging for help, falling all over each other, helping each other. Their faces were all gray with particles that were floating in the air, stained with tears falling from their eyes.

~People jumping out of windows, falling through the sky -- people who were desperate to save themselves and escape what would be their sure death. It was horrifying, and seemed so fake to see their bodies floating through the air while reporters were taping, and announcing, "another one has jumped!"

~The images of the second airplane flying into the second building -- almost like a toy. And then, buildings falling down. First one, and then, several hours later, the other. It was almost as if it were in slow motion. The clouds of dust that rose with each building’s collapse was so thick and ugly, and totally consuming of anything in its path – human, or other. The image of the Pentagon with a plane sticking out of it and the fire engulfing it.

~The thousands of fire fighters, paramedics, police officers, rescue workers, volunteers, ambulances, fire trucks, rescue equipment, lights flashing and blinking.
Later on in the week, new images would fill my mind:

~The emergency triage tents they set up with rows of cots and paramedics, and doctors and nurses -- all quiet, empty and void of survivors. Blood drives were forming left and right -- blood being donated for hopeful survivors.

~The phone poles, bus stop shelters, fences and make-shift bulletin boards covered with pictures and flyers of loved ones that had gone unaccounted for.

~The volunteers coming en masse, wanting to help -- to be a part of something so devastating and horrifying. The rescue dogs with little covers on their feet to protect the pads from sharp stones, glass, metal.

~The silent, somber procession that would form when someone was "rescued" or when a body was found.

And in the hours, and then days to come, the one thing that I thought spoke volumes about our Nation was the unity that we all experienced. The candles that were placed in the front windows of homes across the country; the flags flown from homes, cars, bridges, over passes, buildings, and just about any where a flag could be affixed; the people in the streets cheering fire fighters, paramedics, police officers; people renewing their walk with Christ and beginning to attend church; circles of prayer could be seen peppered across the city; vigils were held.

I also remember feeling a sense of insecurity in the days that followed -- I would often reach for my cell phone just to call my husband or family and tell them I loved them.

I was even affected at work, because we sent some of our teams to Ground Zero that very day. They helped in a number of areas: environmental, safety, and health services, field engineering support, rigging assistance, general consulting to various departments as requested, and restoration of telecommunications. We also brought in a team from our Nevada Test Site's Remote Sensing Laboratory that brought special equipment to look for signs of possible life.

Our Telecoms Team helped restore cell sites in Lower Manhattan, and with landline telephone service knocked out, cellular service provided an immediate communications lifeline for hundreds of people engaged in the recovery effort at Ground Zero. We were also instrumental in reinstating mass transit service from New Jersey to Lower Manhattan and provided construction management services for the expansion and construction of a temporary PATH station at the World Trade Center site and the rebuilding of two Hudson River tunnels that flooded on September 11. I am very proud of the tremendous contributions my company made during this time (and continues to make).

We also found out that a former member of our church, Stanley R. Hall, perished in the plane that flew into the Pentagon. I did not personally know him, but my in-laws and husband did, as did many current members of our church, and from what I have been told, Mr. Hall typified the finest of our nation’s engineering professionals (he worked for one of my company’s competitors, so I know this to be true). He was quiet, unassuming, absolutely competent, and a man of great personal integrity and honor. He was a man of deep faith, and on September 11, 2001, he went on to meet his Savior. We have not forgotten him, in fact just yesterday, our congregation spent time in prayer for all the September 11 victim’s families, and while we rejoice that he is celebrating with our Lord, we continue to remember his family and lift them up in prayer.

So, that’s how September 11, 2001 has affected my life. How has it affected yours? Take a few moments to remember, and if you decide to blog about it, make sure you go back to Shannon’s and add your name to Mr. Linky.


Praying for your Prodigal said...

What an absolutely beautiful and moving post. I have posted, as part of the 2996 Tribute, a tribute for Sgt. Michael Curtin who died after entereing the Twin Towers on a rescue mission. His body was recovered months later and he was carried out on a stretcher with the American Flag ocvering his remains. So many stories, so many heroes.


HolyMama! said...

oh, gibee...

this was poignant and moving. thank you.

i didn't 'know' you then, but our mornings were much the same that day.

Susanne said...

Knowing how I felt watching yet being in a different country, I cant' imagine the feelings you must have been going thru being so close. And actually knowing someone! That was a moving post!

theresa said...

Wow, I could just visualize certain images with particular things you wrote about.

And how awesome of your work, yourself and co-workers to get so involved.

I'm sorry to hear about Stanley but I am thankful too he is now with our God. Blessings!

Lynn said...

Thanks for posting.
It is such a strong perspective when I hear stories of folks who live on the east coast in those neighbouring states.
I felt helpless in the middle of no where.
The reality of being in the thick of it would have taken my breath away.

Thanks for posting.
My remember is up

Faith said...

Heart wrenching still and forever!

Moving post!!!

momrn2 said...

I can't even imagine living so close to it. I am on the West coast and remember my horror and fear.

We truly all have memories and pictures in our minds that will forever be a "part of us" individually and as a nation.

Thanks for sharing!

Brony said...

Thank you for sharing.

I too remember being very shaken up. So much so that I was sent home for work.

I don't understand such acts of hatred, acts of desperation. I feel the pain of others so deeply. I felt so helpless and afraid.

Stacey said...

Gibee you did a great job! Thanks for sharing your story with us!

Heather Smith said...

Beautiful post, GiBee. Thanks for sharing about Stanley. I'm so glad that he had that blessed assurance!

Chappyswife said...

What a moving tribute. You are the first person I have "met" that has been so closely involved with that day and the aftermath. How awesome that your company was able to help.