It's funny the things you remember. Some things are seared into your mind. Other things, I can't seem to remember, although I thought I would remember things always. 15 years later, here is what I recall.
I don't think I've ever written about 9/11. I was 23. It seems odd that my recollections of that day would now be a part of history. But I think it's fair to say that 9/11 changed my life and my perspective and basically changed my world. I was living with a boyfriend at the time, K, in the Valley. I worked at Baxter, manufacturing Factor VIII for hemophiliacs. It was a good job, with good people, but a bit boring. I worked noon-10pm, Sunday -Wednesday so my schedule was a little odd. 9/11 was a Tuesday, so I had worked the night before and had probably come home around 10:30-11pm. I usually went to bed around 12 or 1am. It was hard to wind down after a long day at work. K woke me up around 6:30am, CA time (9:30am NY time). He worked an 8-5 job, and I can't really remember where he was working. I have a feeling it was in this somewhat tall building in Woodland Hills, right off the 101. It was the only high rise for miles. I remember being confused, concerned. He told me there was a terrorist attack. My Dad called. He was really worried. He told me there were lots of planes unaccounted for and they thought they were headed to LA next. He wanted me to leave. I don't know why I didn't. I think maybe even then I thought my Dad was over-reacting. I mean, things were happening 3000 miles away, it would be at least 5 hrs till they got here, right? I remember being so confused. Confusion would be the main feeling I felt for a long time. Until the sadness. I don't know if I saw people jump. I do remember the towers collapsing, live on TV. They didn't think they would collapse. The TV anchors at a loss for words. But down they went. I remember asking K if it was safe for him to go to work in the high rise. I think his work was cancelled. I must have gotten a phone call from my shift lead, Nicky. He told me to come in to work. Things were so uncertain, but drug manufacturing stops for no one. It was good, better to be with people. We worked in this place we called the "area". It was actually really awesome. You had to gown in to come into the manufacturing area so our mangers hardly ever came to see us. It was like our own private club with funny bunny suits. Since we were deep inside this building, we got no radio signal. Except for the local Thousand Oaks radio station, it played soft rock/pop and had terrible DJs. When I got to work, the radio was on, but it was playing NPR. Probably the first time I had ever heard NPR, or really listened to it. They were reporting on the WTC, and also the Pentagon and the plane that went down in PA (although no one knew why that one went down at the time). We were glued to the radio, but not much information came out. We were all shell shocked. But we spent so much time together that it was a little bit like being with your family. Everyone was gentle with each other that day. The rivalries were gone for a minute. I don't remember leaving or coming home that night. I have one other distinct memory. K and I were driving and I'm not sure why. It must have been that weekend after 9/11. We were in the Valley, and every street corner had people on it, holding candles, hugging, crying. There were people everywhere. It was very odd. There are never people walking it the Valley. It's just too hot. And people in LA are too busy to walk. It was an odd event. It was lovely to see, but also odd to take in. Like I was witnessing something I shouldn't have. Something I wasn't necessarily included in.
In the following weeks, we listened to NPR more and more. The radio station took forever to switch back to it's terrible music. But eventually it did. And eventually we got back to dancing around to the silly music. Or making fun of the DJs. Eventually, we got back to our own lives.
I remember seeing lists of people missing. Families posting pictures of their loved ones, and all the smiling faces all over downtown NYC. All the victims were young - my age. Just going to work. A regular day. The stories emerged. About the guy taking his kid to kindergarten, so he was late. The other guy who was sick that day. The one who survived out of the many. The first responders. The people leading each other down the stairwells. The acts of heroics. The downing of the plane by the passengers. "Let's Roll". The estimates that tens of thousands of people had died. The reality that many more would have died had the planes been just a little bit later.
After I moved to Philly, I met lots of people who had "just missed" stories. A friend's Dad was on the last train through the WTC before the planes hit. Another friend worked at Columbia (Harlem) and lived in Brooklyn. She had to walk over 100 blocks home since they closed the subways and stopped traffic. So many stories. So many lives changed forever.
I'd like to think that 9/11 inspired me to go to grad school. To expand my horizons. To chase my dreams. But I was already looking forward to grad school. I was already planning to apply. I was already planning my escape, both from drug manufacturing and from my boyfriend, K. I left for Philadelphia in Jun 2003, and I tried really hard not to look back. But I do have to say, even to this day, I look around at my fellow passengers on a plane and I wonder if any could be hijackers. If any want to bring down the plane. I usually don't dwell on that thought. And my flights are so packed that anyone would have a time trying to hijack one, that's for sure.
I'm not sure what the legacy of 9/11 is, other than saying I have lived and grieved through a national tragedy. I remember being a teenager, listening to my family talk about tragedy. Talk about JFK's assassination, about plane crashes or automobile accidents. Crazy stories told from eyewitnesses. "Where were you when....". Those stories always had somewhat of a romantic feel to them. They were far removed from my life, this time. I already knew how they turned out. I wanted to know the gory details, not really thinking how my questions were hurting those I was talking to. Now I know. 9/11 is a scar. It's not always visible. But it's there. And, even now, on the 15th anniversary, the tears for those people are fresh. #neverforget