I’m sure we all have our stories, of where we were when the first plane hit the first trade tower in New York City, now 20 years ago today. People don’t talk as much anymore about those events that unfolded on 9/11/2001, as there have been so many others to focus on in all the years since, especially lately with this ongoing pandemic and continuing losses of life from it.
Personally, 9/11/2001 hit me far harder and affected my life far deeper than this pandemic has having been from New York, having had a family member on that first plane, and having personally witnessed a part of it so close to my home back then. The fact is the events on 9/11 will most likely be ingrained upon my brain for the rest of this life for me.
I clearly still see myself standing in the café at the job I was working at back then, watching news coverage of the first tower smoking from the plane that had hit it. Seeing another plane hit the other tower, I quickly realized this was far more than an accident. Silence was all that could be heard amongst those around me after that. I went back to my desk and ate the egg sandwich I had purchased at that café. I kept trying to get onto the Internet to no avail when a co-worker suddenly yelled a plane had just crashed into the Pentagon. My heart raced, given I was living and working a mere 10 miles or so from there. My employer quickly rushed us all out the door to go be with our loved ones. I silently wondered if this was the beginning of a war.
The highways around D.C. were all gridlocked as everyone else scrambled to get home. I was quite sure they were all afraid like I was for our major metropolitan area. As F-16’s screamed overhead, the Internet still not working, and all cell phone towers down, my drive home seemed to go on forever. I found myself really worrying about my partner who had a much farther drive than I to get home. Thankfully, he was already there by the time I arrived. While he sat glued to the news on the television, I was in shock, given I was from New York, that I had just gone up those towers the year prior, and that I knew people who worked in the towers and the pentagon. At that point I didn’t know who was affected or how bad this was going to end up being, so I did the only thing I had to do, I went out and cut my grass, trying not to think about it. It didn’t work.
I think at that point I was already developing PTSD over the events unfolding, with the news continuing to show the towers collapsing repeatedly. On some level, I wanted to believe none of this was real, so I got into my car with my partner and drove to the Pentagon. Seeing the plane smoking in the side of the Pentagon made the events of 9/11 far too real. Learning shortly thereafter of the loss of one of my family members on my sister’s husband’s side, who wasn’t even meant to be on that plane that day but took an earlier flight home to surprise his wife, hit my heart hard. Having my cousin who was NYPD, call me from the scene in New York, describing what he was experiencing was even worse.
It took me a year to get over the shock of 9/11’s events, which at some point I realized I had to stop watching all news coverage of it, for it was only preventing that from happening. I was in therapy solidly for that entire time to get through the PTSD from it all, which to this day, 20 years later, I still don’t like seeing the news footage of smoking and crumbling buildings, people jumping from them, soot-covered faces, or the like.
I visited Ground Zero a few years after those tragic events to come to peace with it all and have since visited there a few more times. If there is one thing comes up each time I do, it’s the sadness I have that anyone could ever believe God would ever advocate for such a terrorist act, when in my book, God is unconditional love, and destruction and death like 9/11 is the exact opposite.
May all those who died or were tragically affected on 9/11 be at peace now.
It’s most assuredly a day that I’m sure many of us will never forget…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson