Friday, September 11, 2009

8:46 am (9/11/2001)

My fiancee and I went out to get coffee this morning before she and I had to go to work at 9am. As a result, we were in the car, listening to the Kiss 108 radio station, at 8:46 am. I heard all the words, but my mind didn't process yet. It was too big.

Eight years ago, I also happened to be listening to Kiss 108 at 8:46 am. Actually, I was listening between about 8:45 and 9:15. I was in the parking lot of the Concord-Carlisle High School, waiting to pick a friend up, because we were working on her senior project together. She was writing a musical.

At about 9:40, we were at the piano, working on notation, when my oldest sister, Gretchen, called to see if my dad was okay. You see, my father travels a lot for work. Specifically, he flies a lot for work, and often he works at DC, and sometimes he works at the Pentagon.

I assured Gretchen he was all right, and told my father, to which his immediate reaction was movement and the words, "Why didn't you tell me?"

He turned on the television, and that's when I saw the first pictures, and that's when it was suddenly real.

Between then and about 2pm when school let out, I was mostly alone, watching those images on the television again, and again, and again. I had graduated a year early, so I was the only one of my friends not in school. I did call Random House, because I didn't know how close they were to the towers, and I wanted to make sure everyone there was okay.

At 2:05pm I picked up my friends Jesse and David from school. We were all still very much in shock. They had been watching the footage in school all day. I remember driving David home, and his making a comment asking me to take stops more smoothly, and my stopping the car and offering to let him out right there if he had a complaint about how I drove.

Later, Jesse and I sat on the front steps of the Concord house and sang Christmas carols with inappropriate lyrics, because that's the kind of completely inappropriate humor we both use to cope with this kind of thing.

Kiss 108 (the pop music station, for those of you not familiar with our radio stations) played no music, but only covered the event, for 24 hours. The next day, the first song they played was Sarah McLachlan's "Angel."

Years later, my capstone psychology class on trauma would discuss the "new" notion of national trauma, and events that could in fact cause trauma memories (which are stored and encoded differently than regular memories, and thus cause different reactions, such as flashbacks and high anxiety reactions) in thousands or hundreds of thousands of people. Trauma is a new concept in a new field (post-Vietnam, mostly, when PTSD began to be studied seriously), and the concept of national trauma is thus a post-9/11 study.

And eight years later, the same voices who just said, "We don't know exactly what happened yet. There's been some kind of terrible accident. News is reporting that..." would say, "It's 8:46 am," and my mind would put me right back there again.

1 comment:

  1. I was in fifth grade and my brother in 12th when it happened. I remember the day, mostly at first because the adults in the school were agitated but refused to tell us what was wrong. Then getting home, and seeing the news, which my mother was watching when I walked in. We made handprints on the sidewalk that year, donating a dollar to the Red Cross for the privilege. I haven't been back, but I imagine those handprints, including mine, are still there.

    I was ten. I feel like I've grown up with the aftermath of 9/11/01. And it still has the power to bring tears to my eyes in remembrance.