Thursday, September 11, 2008

in response to Blue's question

I was in my senior year of college. I was a resident advisor and we'd had to come back to campus 2 weeks early for our intense training that would prepare us for dealing with our freshmen students' life crises. We had one whole day devoted to "Crisis Intervention" with the counseling staff at the University's Counseling center. There were probably 500 of us and they broke us all up into different training sessions like "eating disorders" "suicide" "grief" etc. I was at "eating disorders" with my friend and we were listening to a counselor drone on and on about how to recognize signs of anorexia when my supervisor came into the room. He was always impassive...hard to read, but I could tell he was trying to subtly interrupt the counselor and I wondered why. I heard someone out in the hall say 'it's really bad,' and I thought that perhaps someone had died...someone on campus. My supervisor finally got the counselors attention and said that the training had been cancelled and that we all needed to report back to the main auditorium.

We sat down and the Director of Residence of the most eloquent men that I've had the honor to meet, stood in front of us and told us that there had been a national tragedy. He said that New York City had come under attack. At such a large college, we have many out of state students, many from NYC and immediately people in the room burst into tears and cries of disbelief. At first, we thought that a bomb had been dropped...then he explained what had happened and that we were to go back to our buildings and be with eachother and call our families and friends. He said that if we needed to...the counselors were staying in the building to talk with anyone who needed extra grief or anxiety counseling. We all looked at the cluster of counselors, there were maybe 10 to our 500 and they were all embracing and in tears. I wondered who would help them. We walked back and watched the replays of what had happened, the replays of the towers falling...together. It was unreal, sitting in our little lobby on tables since the chairs hadn't been re-installed from the summer break.

I remember patting my friend Luke on the back, he was in Army ROTC and his ex-girfriend went to school in NYC. He couldn't get ahold of her for quite some time. I remember thinking...this is going to change things, but not really understanding the depth to which things would be changed. Not imagining that 7 years later the political, international consequences would be ongoing. I think I was more naive then.
I think that shared experience changed my life greatly. I saw the college staff and how they banded together for the students that were in desperate need of a safe place to cry. I saw my college, where football falls above all else, cancel a game and hold an incredibly touching memorial instead. I saw a crowd of 110,000 people, the next week start chanting U-S-A U-S-A when instead of script Ohio, the band formed the initials of our wounded country.
I was angry that journalists put their lives and the lives of EMS workers on the line trying to get a story...I cared so much more about the people in the story than about the story itself. I started to think that perhaps journalism wasn't for me.
I learned that across the nation college students started staying closer to home, started worrying more about their security, saw colleges trying to catch up...and wanted to help because college should be a safe place.

alot of people were by themselves, i happened to be with 500 other students. maybe 10 of whose names i remember, even if i knew them back then.

I didn't know it then, but two of my closest guy friends would end up in Iraq several years later. I hadn't met him yet, but my husband and his closest friends would be deployed to Europe to provide auxillary support. I didn't know that the girl sitting next to me who I hardly knew and thought was a little odd would end up being my best friend and that she would one day marry a man who has been to Iraq and Afghanistan twice and may go again. I didn't know that my other best friend who I'd also met that same week and hardly knew on 9/11/01 would be affected so greatly because immigration laws would become so much more stringent and she would eventually fall in love with someone from another country...and have her heart broken when her fiance said he couldn't move here.

That one day still changes my life.


1: bret whitaker National Guard

2: matt marfongelli US Army Infantry

3: luke anderson UH-60L Black Hawk Pilot

4: drew prud'homme National Guard

1 comment:

Blue said...

poignant thoughts Ann Onimous.

yesterday i was listening to someone talk about celebrating their third wedding anniversary on 9/11/08. they'd planned to wed on the 10th, but things happened that forced them to postpone by a day. so yes, they married on 9/11/05...but their rationale was that there are many reasons to rejoice on ANY given date. babies will be born, people for whom that was a special date before 2001 etc. They acknowleged the need to honor the heroes and the victims, their families and loved ones by finding the joy...rather than pay homage to the evil intents of those who would have us mired in sadness, depression or misery because of their acts.

I wasn't around during Pearl Harbor, so that date hasn't ever had the same impact for me as it did for the people who lived through it. But I was a flight attendant based in New York City on 9/11/ it has a lot more meaning for me than perhaps some people. It was an atrocity that will impact the rest of my life. But I try to maintain the perspective that out of atrocities come come countless acts of true goodness, service, love, forgiveness, compassion, light and understanding. I focus on those, and do my best to emulate the examples of greatness I see.


Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you. Princess Diana

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