Five Years Later, Part 1: Ashes, Ashes, All Fall Down

Squeezed September 11, 2006

The following is a reprint of a journal/blog entry I made in the late evening of September 11, 2001 in my old hand-edited journal. Five years later, I re-read this entry and some of the other entries I made in that timeframe and they brought back memories. In a later entry (when I get my thoughts together) I’ll comment more on this entry and others.

5:40 a.m. HST. I awaken to the sounds of NPR’s Morning Edition. I hear that the U.S. Capitol has been evacuated, and one of the Senators said that this was “the second Pearl Harbor.” I think, oh, another bomb scare at the Capitol.

Then I hear that the World Trade Center has collapsed. Wait a second, am I still dreaming here? Have nightmares of Godzilla disturbed my early morning slumber? I bolt upright in bed and head into the living room.

My mom is in the chair, asleep, and the TV is still tuned into TNT. I head to the computer, power it up, bring up Internet Explorer, and try logging on to CNN’s website.

I am greeted with the words, “AMERICA UNDER ATTACK,” and find that has been reduced to all of two pages. And I stare at my screen, shocked.

I grab the remote control. My mom wakes up. I ask, “Mom, what channel is Headline News?”

“14, CNN,” she replies.

I punch up channel 14 and the most horrific sight hits my retina. The skyline of New York is shrouded in smoke and dust, as new developments scroll along the bottom of the screen. My gaze is fixed, krazy-glued to the screen, and my jaw drops.

…and the towers came tumbling down.

That’s how America’s day started on September 11, 2001…a day that will not only join Pearl Harbor in infamy, but which makes the Oklahoma City bombing seem like a minor fender bender on the freeway. Four planes crashed, two of them into the World Trade Center, and one of them into the Pentagon.

And at approximately 10:00 a.m. EDT…

Crash. Dust and smoke. In less than two hours, two towers, 1,250 feet tall, symbols of America’s prosperity, were reduced to a pile of rubble.

Being some 5,000 miles away from the action, the only person I know of right now who is directly affected by the consequences of the attack is Joy, who is was leaving this morning to go back up to Santa Clara. There’s probably going to be a time lag, but I’m sure the journalers are going to have a field day.

To say that reaction to the attack was strong is the understatement of the millennium (and we’re only 1.75 years into it). The president is vowing to bring the perps to justice. But reaction elsewhere on the Internet, where others aren’t bound by the unwritten rule of politics (tell them to go to hell, but do it nicely), is not quite as diplomatic. Reading the message boards on ABC News’ website, some people are calling for us to attack the Palestinians (some have been celebrating the attack)…

12:12 p.m. HST. Man, things have picked up. News reports are coming in saying that explosions have been reported in Afghanistan. Possibly targeting Osama bin Laden, whom they think have masterminded these attacks. The president is scheduled to address the nation at about 3 p.m. HST.

Over lunch, I was watching one of the TVs in the center of Restaurant Row and CNN was showing the leaders of Congress giving statements condemning the attacks. At the end, the members of Congress in attendance all broke out into a spontaneous chorus of “God Bless America.” A very touching moment of bipartisan unity.

It looks like the U.S. may be in a state of war. It seems like the Persian Gulf War all over again. Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” If you need any more proof of that truth…if you need more proof than the loss of two of the world’s tallest buildings, and the loss of four airplanes to terrorism, all of this on U.S. soil…with all due respect, you must be brain dead.

I’m seriously considering going to the Blood Bank tomorrow and giving blood, if only to ease my conscience.

5:40 p.m. HST. I’m sitting at Hosoi Garden Mortuary, waiting for a funeral service to begin, one at which the choir is performing. Of course, the atmosphere is somber, as it would be absent this national tragedy. My mom mentions the film that was being played over and over of the second plane hitting the south tower of the WTC.

And then it hit me. A mild feeling in the pit of my stomach, but the real human cost just hit me squarely in the solar plexus…all the thousands…maybe even tens of thousands of people. Crushed. Involuntarily cremated. Sent to their maker. No longer with us…

Oh, enough with the euphemisms…dead. Dead. Dead!

I probably would not have reacted this way had it not been for this funeral. To the ministers’ credit, the tragedy didn’t overshadow the funeral. We got through it. Coming home, I had my radio on NPR, and again, the question that was on everyone’s mind was why? Why? Why?

When I came home I felt like crying, but couldn’t. Not since my own father died in 1988 have I felt this way. Dying inside, but trying to maintain a front of strength and invulnerability.

And the film of the towers tumbling down are playing over and over in my mind. I can remember exactly where I was when the Challenger exploded on January 28, 1986. I was on my way to school; in fact, I was just passing by the Kailua Drive-In. The radio was on KSSK, playing “I Just Called To Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder. Then Perry and Price cut into the song with the live feed from Cape Canaveral…”We have just received word from the flight dynamics officer that the vehicle has exploded…”

I’m sure I will remember what went through my mind on this day also, and if not, this entry will help me remember. What JFK’s assassination was to the Baby Boomers, the World Trade Center will be to Generation X and the Millennials.

In my mind, I know that the United States that I wake up to tomorrow morning will be radically changed. And not for the better.

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