Posts Tagged ‘911’

Flashbacks of A Nightmare, An Eleven Year Reflection of September 11, 2001

September 10, 2012

Like most Americans, I was devastated by the images of the mutilation of a dream, as I watched the symbols of America come tumbling down.  Like most Americans, I cried that day.  I wanted the reality of that day to be a nightmare from which I would awaken.  Instead, the reality became more vivid with each movement of the clock that signaled the passing of seconds, minutes and hours on that day.

In my dreams, the nightmare was often in replay like it was on CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX.  In my head, I heard the voices of more than three thousand people praying for their God and calling for their loved ones.  The screams of their excruciating pain and the anticipation of death just moments away plays in high definition in my mind.  I cover my ears and yet I cannot silence their screams; eleven years later it still echoes in my ears.

As long as I live, I will remember where I was on September 11, 2001, the day that hatred and greed gave birth to a new America.  It was the day that the freedom and calm we took forever was replaced with the reality that our our freedom and security are at risk.

It was a beautiful Tuesday morning and I had debated with myself if I was going to work that day. The suburban area in which I lived was about thirty miles south of Washington, D.C. and is has traffic second only to the traffic in Los Angeles, California.  Interstate 95 was the most expedient route to my office but it is also one of the busiest corridors for travel between the South and the Northeast part of the United States.

As always I turned my radio between my two most favorite stations in the Washington, DC area; Howard University’s music Station WHUR and local talk radio station WTOP.   I heard the announcer on WTOP say that there was a report that a plane had hit Tower of the World Trade Center.  I thought to myself “what a horrible accident, some inexperienced pilot really lost his bearings and hit the tower”.  I imagined only that he had knocked down the antenna, never considering that it was a commercial jet that had hit the top floors with dozens of passengers onboard.

After hearing the news of the first plane, I turned from WTOP TO WHUR and heard that a second plane had hit the second tower.  I then realized thenthat the plane crashes were not accidental and this day was going to be an extraordinary one.

As I approached the sign that said Seminary Road Exit ¾ miles, I saw black transforming the sky several exits ahead.  It appeared to be billowing close to the exit I would take near the Pentagon.  I was an exit that would take me to Route 110 through Rosslyn, Virginia to Clarendon where my office was located on Wilson Blvd.    I called my office and told them I would not be coming to work, and my manager suggested that I just go home “something terrible was going on and the office would likely be closing” he said.   I pressed my foot to the petal hard to drive myself home as fast I could; I just wanted to get home;  I wanted to see my son.   I thought to myself “If I am going to die,  I want to die at home”.

I drove down 395 so fast that I do not recall passing the usual landmarks, I remember turning off at my exit only because the warning light for low fuel caught my attention with its ding.  As I stopped at the traffic signals after exiting near Potomac Mills where I lived, I looked over at the cars on each side of me.  I wondered if the drivers in those cars knew that our we were under attack. I wondered if they knew that people were trapped in the burning planes and buildings in New York and in Washington, DC.   I wanted to tell them, I wanted to get out of my car and hug them and I wanted to tell them to hurry home to their loved ones.

I had stopped buying gas from Shell during Apartheid but on this day  I stopped to a Shell Gas station to purchase gas and as I pumped my gas, a white man who was refueling his car in the island next to me and I at a simultaneous moment said” How could this happen?”  We both just wanted to get home.  We wished each other safe travel and got in our cars and drove away.  I felt a tremendous bond to that stranger, a person who on any other day would likely never have spoken to me or me to him.

I arrived in front of my home, got out of my car and expelled a sigh of relief as I turned the key to open my front door.  I turned on the television and watched in disbelief the horror that continued to unfold during my commute home.  I heard reports of a third plane that went down in a field in Pennsylvania with dozens of passengers onboard.  I called my mother, my sisters and brother, other family members and friends to ask if they were okay.

I prepared myself for the worst. I prayed for those in the Twin Towers, at the Pentagon and in the field in Pennsylvania.  I prayed for America.  I have tried to imagine what those in the planes and in the building at the Pentagon must have gone through before they died. Some called loved ones to say goodbye and others comforted each other as they took their last breaths.  They did not think of color, ethnicity, social status, religion or political persuasion in those moments;  they were all people with a horrible common fate.   I pray that on this eleventh anniversary of their deaths, we remember their sacrifice.  I hope that we have learned that life is short and fragile and that freedom has not been free.  I hope that we do not wait until we are faced with a similar fate to realize that hate is not a respecter of persons or countries, we should focus our vision and our minds and see our fellow Americans and other world citizens as human….. is that not more than enough to unite us all?