9/11 at the White House

We’re just a few days past the 13th anniversary of 9/11, like many people, I can’t believe it’s been that long.

I was at home in bed when the first plane hit the twin towers.  I was in college and off of school that day.  My mom came running up stairs to my room telling me that New York was under attack.  In my groggy, just woken from slumber state, I remember thinking that it was too early for a baseball game.  My brain processed my mom’s message in baseball terms of them losing pretty bad.

I went downstairs to the living room and watched the endless replay of the impacts as well as the following crashes.  It was pre-cell phone era still in our household so we couldn’t get a hold of my sister who was out running her errands.  Not knowing what was going to happen next, mom and I decided to go gas up our cars and go to the grocery store for some essentials.  We managed to go to the filling station before they decided to sell a gallon of gas above $8.  (Luckily that only lasted for a little while before they were ordered to lower the prices).

I remember I didn’t feel safe until I saw President Bush speaking on TV that night.  There was one speech that I saw, he wasn’t in the Oval Office, but standing at a skinny podium somewhere.  I remember so vividly seeing him crying.

This is just a brief account of my 9/11 memories.  What I wanted to write about for this Sentimental Sunday post, was my 9/11/2006 experience.

September 2006 I was a White House Intern.  It was only our 2nd week so everything was still new to me.  I was used to security, but I guess I wasn’t prepared for an all out blockage of Pennsylvania Ave.  Normally I got off the subway from my apartment at the McPherson Square stop and walked through Lafayette Square park to get to the office.  But that day, I was not allowed to exit the park, even though all I had to do was cross the street and I was there.  I had left early enough because there was to be a special 9/11 ceremony on the South Lawn……. but not early enough for a detour.   I had to go all the way out of my way just to arrive at the same destination.  Being that I wasn’t used to wearing these fancy dress shoes it took me a long time.

So after going through regular security and getting to my office….the interns had already left for the ceremony.  I was upset, but sat at my desk, ready to work.  I sat in the room with my two immediate supervisors.  I was asked why I wasn’t at the ceremony and I explained my dilemma.  One of my supervisors told me I could go with him and he escorted me to the South Lawn of the White House.  I was given a flag pin to wear on my suit lapel. 

He and I stepped out onto the lawn and found a office co-worker and stood by her.  The lawn was divided into two rows.  I could see from the colored badges that all of the interns were on one side of the grass, and I was on the opposite side with the cabinet and upper level staff members.  I closed my coat around my badge so no one else could see who I was.

I didn’t know what the ceremony was going to entail.  I hadn’t seen the President yet, so I was kind of hoping that he would be there.  If I had been thinking intelligently, obviously he was going to be at other commemorative events in New York and such.  

I was in a state of awe like I had never been before in my life, when the doors opened and I saw who was being escorted by Vice President Cheney.  It was former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  Oh My God !  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Here is a photo from that morning.  You can’t see me in the picture, but I am standing behind the woman in white on the upper left hand corner of the picture.  In the background you see the soldiers holding the flags, and the one on the left has a rifle.  To the left of him is the woman in white and I am behind her.  

The tragedy of 9/11 will never be forgotten, and neither will this event I attended to honor those who were lost during the terror attacks.  

This photo is from the White House website which is now in archive status but still accessible here. White House Archive Web Site      

Vice President Dick Cheney and Lynne Cheney stand with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain for a moment of silence on the South Lawn September 11, 2006, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. White House photo by Shealah Craighead

Tear of Grief

I leave one computer at work just to come home and sit in front of my own for hours on end.  I’m sure I’m not alone in this ritual as I see more than half the world wears glasses now.  I can tell when I check my email and it says I have 24 messages that it’s either been a busy day on Facebook or my friend is back online and forwarding me a ton of emails. Mostly they are jokes, political satire, occasionally dirty, religious chain letters or cute animals.

In that mess of emails, one caught my eye a few weeks ago.  It was called tear drop and inside was a link to a slide show called Russia_Honor_US911.  After watching it, I was completely dumbfounded, flabbergasted, taken aback.  I was completely clueless, in the dark.  In other words I had no idea that Russia had designed and given the United States a memorial for the September 11th terror attacks.  I actually was a little embarrassed that I could call myself a person who is current with Russian events and didn’t know, but no one talks about it.  I’m pretty sure I would have remembered it on the news, even five years ago.  Think about the gesture of the Russian Federation and then how a lot of the views of the relations between our countries are skewed by the media.  It’s kind of ironic that we criticize Russia’s version of democracy and control over the media, yet look what our news outlets did in failing to cover this story.  It’s not much different if you ask me.  It’s all selective news.  It’s only important if THEY want you to know about it.    I’d appreciate you taking just 14 minutes out of your life to watch the presentation below.

 

It also isn’t said very often that President Putin was the first person to call President Bush.  (This is a good informational link because it tells you what happened and then puts the source of the information after. http://www.historycommons.org/timeline.jsp?day_of_9/11=bush&timeline=complete_911_timeline )

While not related to the memorial video I want you to watch above, and I realize this is a late post for the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, it was one of my generation’s “where were you and what were you doing moment.”  Such as “Where were you when the space shuttle Challenger exploded?” Sick in bed, coloring and watching the news. or “Where were you when the first war with Sadaam Hussein started?” In a gun store with my dad.  So now, “Where were you on 9/11 (or as Alan Jackson’s put it…when the world stopped turning on that September day)?”

I was working on my first college degree as a paralegal in 2001.  For some reason that I vaguely remember as my instructor cancelling class due to a personal obligation relating to his own law practice, I had the day off.  I was catching up on some much needed rest until, in my twilight, I could hear my mom grab hold of the railing and came barreling up the stairs.  I remember rolling over, irritated- ready to tell her to leave me along and that I hadn’t overslept for school.

“New York is under attack!” she said.  Changing my perception of what she could possibly want from me so early in the morning, I mumbled that it was too early for a baseball game.  Clearly my priorities were shifted to baseball.

I didn’t see any of the planes hit either towers in real time.  I didn’t know what to make of it.  I didn’t cry, but I was scared. The tears came weeks later.  I remember seeing it that day, but hadn’t again on any other footage montage.  Mayor Rudy Gulianni was out in the streets with a large group of people behind him and gathering more as he went along and did his best to lead them to safety.  I myself, didn’t feel safe until later that night when I saw President Bush address the nation from the Oval Office.  It was reported that Bush 41 was actually stuck in Milwaukee when all the planes were grounded (as told to Larry King by Barbara Bush http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0310/25/lkl.00.html). Our family tried to be prepared for whatever might happen next.  We each went to the bank and withdrew a modest amount of money, purchased extra bottled water, as well as went to fill up our cars with gas.  That would prove smart as prices jumped over $6 later that day until stations were fined for doing so and had to re-standardize the prices.  Walmart remained open so I went to work, but all I did was stand in the electronics department watching the TV’s.  No one was really shopping.  Major League baseball shut down so I didn’t have to go to my job there.

This year the National Geographic cable channel had a show on called George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview, a world premiere documentary that reveals exclusive, first-person insight into the former president’s experience following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.  I sat with my family to watch it.  I’m glad the living room lights were off because I couldn’t stop crying though most of the show.  I wasn’t sobbing, but I couldn’t hold back the tears from rolling down my cheeks.   Maybe it was because I had heard pieces of his story before, about being woken up in the middle of the night and rushing to safety in the White House with Barney in his arms, or thinking about the hundreds of photos of the President at ground zero with grief stricken family members, where he had to be strong while the rest of us cried.