It is almost a year later, and I am just now putting down these thoughts into this website. Today is August 31, 2002. It always helps to record this. I found out about this site when AOL had some info about Sept. 11 a few weeks ago. That was the first time I had recorded how I felt really, along with many others in an open forum.
I live in Algood, TN [near Cookeville], the same placed I lived the day America was attacked. I had a class that morning at Tenn. Tech University--a biology lab class. I remember going to school, listening to a CD in my truck, so I didn't have the radio on. I recall getting there about 10 or 15 minutes before it started, and staying in my truck to listen to a song or 2. When time to go, I cut the truck off and didn't bother listening to the radio first. Had I done that, I probably wouldn't have went to class in the first place. Im sure by then they were already reporting it, for it was about 7:55 am central time, almost 10 minutes after the chaos started in NY.
I went on to class as usual, and Im surprised no one burst into the class announcing what had happened. Maybe not many knew, or if they did, maybe they just supposed it was a freak accident and all would be okay.
After the class ended, probably around 9:45 am, I went on to my truck to drive a few blocks to the college bookstore. I wanted to go ahead and buy my 'bag o organisms' for dissection later in the semester so I wouldn't have to worry about it later. On the way there, I actually had the radio on. I still didn't know a thing about what happened, and the radio wasn't telling. As I flipped through the stations, they were talking about how many other nations despise Americans and want us killed, and how our coasts are wide open for anything to happen. I remember thinking "Wow, this is very true." In the back of my mind I think I suspected something was up, but about that time I was arriving at the bookstore.
As I walked in, it was quiet as usual, maybe a bit more than usual, and I walked over to the Biology spot and grabbed what I needed. When I stepped up to the counter to buy my er, stuff, that was when my world was changed forever, even though most everyone elses already had.
A T.V. set above the counter was the focus of the 4 or 5 employees there. All I could see was a big city with lots of smoke rising from it. I knew it was a VERY big city, and that SOMETHING was seriously wrong. That was when one of the guys there started giving me the facts--Both of the twin towers of NY were hit, and had already fallen, they had already hit the Pentagon, and that seemingly every 30 minutes something was being attacked.
Im not sure how long I stood there before it all set in--and making up my mind that WW3 was probably not far off. I mean, this was AMERICA, where stuff like that just DID NOT happen. I paid for my stuff and left very quickly. My girlfriend who I had lived with for almost a year by then had taken the day off from not feeling well, and I figured she would've still been asleep and not known anything about it. I was in a mad rush to get home, my mind still in a sort of hazy, static-like state as I cursed work vans and slow cars to get out of my way. I seriously just wanted to get home to my girl, and make sure my rifle was loaded and ready. Hey, how was I to know what could've come next? Didn't you see the movie "Red Dawn"?
So I get home and she was still asleep. I busted into the room and told her she should get up now, turn on the news, for I think WW3 has begun, and that America is being attacked. She didn't waste anytime as we flung ourselves to the TV set. She said that a little while earlier she had heard our neighbor banging on the door, but she didn't answer it. Shortly after that, he came over and we watched it all for hours and hours. Much speculating went on about what could have happened, what was going to happen, which branch of the military would do what, etc. He was in the Marine Reserves, and I had been out of the Active Army for only 1 year and one month.
I still worked my TTU back then, and actually went to work that night. We were supposed to have a little get together for drinks and karaoke that night, but obviously that wasn't going to happen. Our boss was pretty laid back and didn't really make us do any work that night, which usually consisted of calling prospective college students to give them info about our college. My girlfriend called me to see if I wanted to leave an hour or 2 early to go have lunch with our neighbors. I didn't hesitate long to say yes. While at work I know a coworker, Lee, and I happened to be upstairs with a TV on, and that was where I first saw the image of the second plane going into the building, the South tower I guess, shown from the ground looking up. Just like the images shown over and over all day on the news stations, it was horrifying, devastating, saddening, and brought intentions of rage toward the perpetrators. As we went to Cracker Barrel for some supper with our friends, we noticed not many people were out at all. Later we realized they were all at the gas stations, as those places were gouging their prices in reflection of the days events and paranoia. I guess we could get angry at them for what they did, but I don't think all of them were doing it for sheer profit. I think there was just so much confusion in the air that it just bred frustration and tension, and those gas stations just thought it right. Besides, I didn't pay more than 1.44 as I filled my tank, when before that it was about 1.20 or so. The prices fell again by morning or so the next day.
For weeks after all the tragedy you couldn't find a real American Flag anywhere. The factories obviously couldn't pump them out fast enough. Sadly, you would hear the occasional story of one being stolen right from a front porch. I consider myself pretty patriotic, but after all this that patriotism soared. I know I was much more weary of what was going on around me, trying to watch people closer and to have a better sense of what was going on. Inside, it tore me apart. I battled with the thought of going back into the Army--it just seemed right, but as I would tell that to my girlfriend, I could just see in her eyes my place was with her, and to at least finish up my schooling first. One night or day after a little skirmish between the two of us, I just burst into tears and sat in the dark, and when she found me a few seconds later Im sure she was shocked, for it wasn't that big a deal whatever we fought about. But it wasn't for that reason that I was weeping. It had built up for weeks, and thats when I could finally say it:
The guilt and HELPLESSNESS I felt for not being able to be there in NY, or at the Pentagon to help out; The passion and pain I felt for the innocent victims and their loved ones; and the strain that was on me for wanting to go and serve my Country again, feeling as if I had gotten out too soon, and that I should be back in the Infantry helping again. Its just the kind of person I am I guess--just wanting to help when tragedy strikes the best I can. Just like during the Oklahoma bombings: I was a Junior in High School and I felt so powerless and helpless when that happened, I just wanted to be there to help so bad.
Despite my own feelings of remorse and helplessness, the real burden is on the backs of the survivors of the attacks, and the loved ones who remain after those have gone on to another place because of those horrid events. I know that my inner pain doesn't even compare to the struggle they faced, or are still facing. I have always been a Christian, though after going away to the Army I know I haven't been the best one I should, but I do still pray for the folks affected by it all, still today. My heart and soul goes out to them, and I hope they know that God is with them, and with their lost loved ones. Even if they don't believe in God, I hope they just know that they are away from all this killing and awful world that goes on for us today, and that they are taken care of.
Many say that it could all happen again and probably will. I don't doubt that, but I just hope it never does. Maybe the world will calm down someday, and we can all forget the prejudices we have within. And even if it doesn't, may God keep us prepared, and may He be there to punish the poor souls who do such cowardly stunts responsible--those from Sept. 11, before that, and those to come.
God Bless America....Drive on USA!!!