Friday, September 9, 2011

We Will Never Forget....

Photo source: Flicker/macten
I wasn't expecting to still be so emotional regarding September 11.  I guess more so that I didn't expect the raw pain and sadness to still feel so fresh.  It's been said that you'll always remember where you were when you heard about September 11.  I'll never forget it because I learned about it when I turned on the television that morning and saw the plane hit the second tower.  Live.

I was in public accounting at a Big 4 firm at the time and working on the financial statements of a small private company.  I had woken up early to try to get through as much of those statements as I could at home before heading into the office and possibly heading out to the client later that day.  As usual, one of the first things I did was turn on the Today Show.  I like to have the background noise going and have been that way ever since I can remember. In the first minute or two I wasn't paying attention to what was happening on that tv screen - until I heard either Katie (Couric) or Matt (Lauer) say something about a plane hitting one of the towers of the World Trade Center.  And then I looked up.  And saw the second plane hit and an explosion.  And for a second both the people in my television and the rest of the world went silent as our collective brains tried to comprehend what we had just witnessed.  As the events continued to unfold that morning I still tried to remain focused on my immediate task in front of me and make sure that I didn't disappoint my client and the powers that be that they had to answer to.  That lasted all of about another 15 minutes after news of the plane hitting the Pentagon came out.  And then the news of Flight 93.  That's when I put the pencil down.

United Flight 93 was a flight that went from Newark, NJ to SFO.  It's a flight that I had taken before.  It's a flight that I would be taking many times in the near future subsequent to September 11 - though obviously at the time I didn't know that.  Ever since that day the thought has crossed my mind - "If my travel schedule had been different...."

As much as I stayed glued to the television and the internet for any new information about what the heck was happening in the US, as usual under traumatic circumstances my brain went into autopilot and focused on the logistics of the immediate tasks at hand.  I still tried here and there to continue on with my job.  Part of that job was trying to get into contact with the CFO of this small private company I was working on.  In the early afteroon, I had not heard back from him, which was unusual.  He was always very prompt no matter what was happening.  I finally called the Accounting Manager, Anna.  It's funny the details you remember and those you don't.  I can't for the life of me remember the name of the client, nor can I remember the name of the CFO, but I can totally recall the name of the person who broke the news to me of why I couldn't get in touch with the CFO.

Anna told me that the CFO wouldn't be coming in that day, nor would he be available for any kind of further communication, and she wasn't sure when he would be.  You see, the CFO was engaged to a girl who lived in New York City.  They had been maintaining a long distance relationship because he was hired for this CFO position in California.  There had been numerous trips back and forth over the course of the prior year as she made plans to move to the West coast.  I knew that the wedding was coming up and his fiance was making arrangements to finally live over on our side of the country.  What I didn't expect was what Anna told me next, which completely knocked the wind right out of me. 

The reason I couldn't get in touch with the CFO was because the CFO's fiance was on Flight 93.  This was to be the flight that brought her to live with her future husband permanently.  I still have no words for what I felt right at that moment for him, for her, for our country, for humanity.

The CFO never fully made it back to work after that day.  The devastation was too much.  I'm not sure he's doing well, but I'm hoping he's been able to have healed enough to continue on really living life.  It's amazing how many people are either directly affected or are separated by so few degrees of someone directly affected.  I happened to be in New Jersey - right across the river from New York City on one of the anniversaries of 9/11.  It might have even been the 5th anniversary, and the energy felt very surreal that evening as the lights of remembrance lit up the sky where the towers once stood.

On this tenth anniversary, I'm surprised at how raw this still feels for me.  I can't even imagine what it feels like for those left behind, for those in NY, in and around the Pentagon, in Pennsylvania and the thousands of others who rushed to Ground Zero to do what they could.  One thing is for certain.  We will never forget.

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