It seemed as though everyone knew someone who was either on one of those flights, or who worked in one of those buildings. The refusals to believe what was unfolding before our eyes gave way to shock, followed by grief, followed by a sense of helplessness. We knew people who worked there, knew people who lived around the corner – family and friends; some we had spoken to only days earlier. There was a sick sense of the unreal about all this – and as the hours wore on into days, and the replays of those initial moments played over and over to the point of numbness – we couldn’t get it out of our heads that someone actually wanted to do this – someone actually planned it.
I remember someone coming up to me, visibly upset, asking “this is war, isn’t it?”. Against whom? Nobody knew who did it at the time – everyone guessed. The name Osama bin Laden was bandied about, but people really didn’t know anything about him – wondered what drove him to perform this act. And we were bombarded by rumors – tales of heroism, or false survivals – of hearing impossible stories of “someone riding the rubble down when the buildings collapsed” – knowing that was an insane scenario, but wanting in some small part of us to believe it could have happened.
And as of this broadcast, from the evening of September 11 to the early morning hours of September 12th, there was still no accurate casualty count – no number of dead or injured – no identities. Fires were yet to be put out – recovery hadn’t even begun yet – rumors there were still people trapped in the rubble, trying to send messages via cellphones.
It was a day many blocked out of their memory, some still do, 17 years on.
But many people, this day 17 years ago, were either not born yet, or too young to remember exactly what happened. To get some idea what we were going through, at least on a national scale, here is a two-hour excerpt via National Public Radio, who stayed on the air around-the-clock. This broadcast comes via KPCC in Pasadena.
Hit the play button and have a listen if you can – if you can’t, I understand – I still can only take it in small doses myself.
It’s still a reminder that people are capable of many things – incredible good and unbearable evil – and they both walk the same earth.