Sunday, September 4, 2011

9/11 A trucker then, now a Writer's Perspective, Where were you?

I pray that my words here might give you some measure of comfort. As many of you know, I recently graduated from college and it was there that I found my love of writing. I imagine my words as steam valves that allow pressure to be let out. I have been thinking for a few weeks what I might say to mark this 10 year anniversary. Here goes:

September 11, 2001 was one of the longest 24 hours in American history, in my opinion. I was in Greenville, South Carolina that morning. I was in my first week of training as a newly minted long haul truck driver. This meant I was driving a trainers truck, while I learned the ropes. Ironically, the load we were delivering was from Connecticut, so I had traversed the George Washington Bridge on September 10, 2001. As I drove south on the New Jersey turnpike in the middle of the night I saw the Manhattan skyline, for the first and last time in its pre-9/11 configuration. The twin towers which sat at the southern tip of the island looked like all the movies I had ever seen. They were a permanent fixture, or so I thought. I remember telling the trainer I must come back here someday, when I can go into the city, and have a closer look.

When we arrived in Greenville, SC at our destination, we both got in our respective bunks and hit the rack. Eight AM came in a flash and the truck was empty by 8:30 AM. We were headed east on I-26 towards our next pick up location when the seemingly endless stream of country music, was cut in on in the middle of a Toby Keith song.

The voice was that of ABC news with an urgent news bulletin. A plane had struck the world trade center. As the songs returned the trainer and me were mildly affected. We had no TV so we were left to make our own images in our heads about this event. I envisioned a small plane that might have had a mechanical failure and could not avoid the tower. I am reminded of the stories about the 1960 Presidential debate where the radio audience thought Nixon won and the TV audience thought Kennedy prevailed. I could have never conjured up a mental image of the true magnitude of this event. I had no frame of reference. I will also say that I am glad I was not near a TV for this event. When I watch news specials about 9/11 my wife has a far stronger reaction to the imagery, than do I.

Soon the music would be gone again, and gone for a long time. As the miles went by the next report of another plane hitting the other tower came into our big red semi-truck. There was just the hum of the turbo diesel, the sound of the radio announcer and nothing else. It was like when you pull up to a red light and you and the car next to you are playing the same song and you both realize you are singing the same tune. There is the smile and wave then exaggerated head movements as if to say, no I like this this song more than you. This was the same feeling but this was a song nobody wanted to hear. There was no finger clicking or mouthing the words, just a stunned silence.

We made a stop just after the Pentagon had been hit at a Pilot truck stop. The place was packed with drivers, who were gathered around the TV's for sale. I saw the towers set ablaze with smoke billowing from them and that image will be with me for the rest of my life. The group of truckers standing there had lots of things in common. While I cannot remember the race or gender of the individuals in that truck stop I will never forget the tears. The differences that might have separated us before just simply didn't matter. Our nation was under attack and we were just frozen in space and time watching helplessly. I think that was the hardest part of 9/11. You felt absolutely helpless. I did, since my wife was in Ohio and I was far away from her. I cannot imagine the not knowing followed by the pain and suffering felt by those who lost loved ones in this most tragic event.

The place where we picked up our load headed for Wisconsin gave us time to talk things over with the dock workers there. This was on everyone's mind. As we proceeded north, and the miles ticked off there was a feeling of sadness that was just everywhere. The hate that brought on these attacks was winning, for the moment. I recall how strange it was not seeing any aircraft for that whole day. The sunset in Indiana had none of the bright jet trails to light up as it vanished over the western horizon. The calm was deceptive.

Our New Flag Just in Time
All over the nation people were in there homes and the next day would bring about permanent change to the landscape of America. People would rally with signals to the enemy, whoever it was, that they were not going to give up their way of life and the freedom they enjoyed. The beauty of the flags sprouting up everywhere is also an image I will never forget.  They would fight and fight to the death as so many brave American's have and still continue the battle to this day, ten years later.

You can argue whether or not the exact approach was the correct one, or the venues chosen to wage this war were the best use of our might, you cannot say that America went down without a fight. I know this is a hot-button issue for many of you. However, we must remember who threw the first punch. It was a small group of freedom hating, radical, ideologically driven, people. People who do not represent any larger race or creed. Just people who happen to also have 23 pairs of chromosomes and the same genus and species as me. I do not know anyone who shares their beliefs, or their hate. I know plenty of people who hold Muslim beliefs, who would never imagine causing harm to this country. Painting with too broad a brush is messy and usually just results in paint ending up where it does not belong.

I will end by offering a Thank You to all of the men and women who have or are serving our military in hostile lands. I would also like to thank the family's left behind for their sacrifice, while husband's or wive's are serving overseas. The loss of life in the cause of freedom for America is the highest price our nation has paid. To all of the family's who lost members in the attacks I want you to know that I will never forget your loved one's and neither will our nation. I am pleased by the rebuilding which is going on at the site of the former World Trade Center. The new buildings serve as a reminder of the might of our nation and her ability to maintain the beacon for freedom as they look out over Lady Liberty in the harbor.

Please leave me a comment saying where you were on 9/11. God bless America.





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