I was sitting at the train station in my car in late November of 2011, waiting for my train. Parked in front of me was a car that said “9/11 Never Forget”. Which made me think about the whole experience of that day. It was something that I will admit I had not thought of in a while. This further got me thinking about my new book I was working on; Ruins of the Mind, which was still in it’s infancy. I thought, the one thing I have never seen is a story from the perspective of those that actually went through those experiences from within the planes. That is when I decided to write “Feathers in the Wind” which is the first story in Ruins of the Mind. It puts you in the seats with the passengers of American Airlines Flight 11 that fateful day. I wrote it as much so that I would never forget as I did for those who lost loved ones and for everyone that was affected by it.
We all have moments in our lives that we remember. Moments that forever change our view on the world around us. Things like the sinking of the Titanic; the day the U.S. dropped the atomic bombs on Japan; Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man in space; the Chernobyl meltdown in Ukraine; The explosion of the Challenger Shuttle in Florida and yes, the day that changed the world, September 11th, 2001.
I know, those of you who live outside of the United States may say “No, no, that only changed the United States. It knocked some complacency into you.”
Yes, I will admit there is some truth to that. We as a nation had felt perhaps too sure in our foothold on safety and that we could not be attacked on our own soil.
However, it dramatically affected the entire world whether we want to admit it or not. Security measures for travel all over the planet have become a constant way of life. No longer do we have the luxury of enjoying some time with our family at the gate before their plane takes off. No longer can we take a package or send a package to another country and not have it scrutinized before it is allowed to leave our hands.
We have entered a level in our society of mutual distrust and apprehension for our fellow neighbor. I am disheartened to see how much tension levels rise when a man wearing a turban or a woman wearing a burka walk into a room or a train. I know, we have always had a level of apprehension for our neighbors, but sadly what happened on that ominous day did more to hurt those who committed the acts than help. I have friends who are Muslim who are afraid to admit their faith to strangers for fear that they will be cast as the radicals that committed those heinous acts.
The Moment of Truth
When are we ever going to realize that we are the same (biologically, emotionally, etc.)? Will we ever? We are, as a society, as a race, capable of such incredibly beautiful things. We are capable of compassion, love and true, sincere acts of kindness. We are all made of the exact same thing, blood, bones, muscles, brain matter. That’s it. That’s all we are, living creatures all of the same race. It’s so simple to look at, but yet add in the equation of intelligence and it just throws it all out the window.
Take a look below at where some of the people around the world were when they found out about 9/11. Can you honestly tell me that we aren’t all in this together as a world? There are 196 countries in the world. They are not all represented below however I can guarantee you that every one of those 196 countries knows about the events that occurred on September 11th, 2001.
For me – it was shortly after I had gotten my pilot’s license. I was at work sitting in a cubical when my father, who was driving at the time called me and said “Someone just crashed an airplane into the World Trade Center in New York.”
I replied, “What? How could someone hit a building with a plane?”
Believe it or not, it takes a lot more effort hit a building than to crash into the ground or a forest. Now, keep in mind, I pictured a small Cessna or something when my father initially told me about the incident. So, I told him I’d go check it out on the television at work and call him back.
I proceeded to go into the conference room and turned on the TV to see a building burning. I was shocked that such a small plane could cause so much damage to a concrete structure like that. No sooner had I really started watching, that the second plane collided with the south tower. That was it. That was the moment that will stick in my head forever. That single realization that our country was under attack.
Here is what other’s around the world experienced:
Val – “Just got back from Yellowstone national park , a glorious vacation with god’s creation and then 9/11 hit & totally ruined the mood!”
Linda – “While watching the first tower burn on the morning news, I dialed a friend at her office to tell her to turn on a television there. In mid sentence, the second tower was hit. All I could say was, “Oh no – we’re under attack.” I hung up the phone and sat slack-jawed, staring at the television for the entire day as something I thought could never have imagined played itself out in horrific detail.”
Deneen – “I was at work, where I currently work, sitting at my desk, when someone went running in the conference room to turn on the T.V. and saw the terrible tragedy as it was happening right before my eyes. Still seems like a nightmare.”
Julia – “My art history class was starting, and one of my classmates ran out of the room because her husband had called from one of the towers.”
Ruth – “I was dropping my dog off at the vet for ACL surgery when I heard about the first tower being hit. Went home and watched in horror the towers come down.”
Liz – “The bus had just picked Kyle up for school, first grade. I was sitting in front of the TV watching Good Morning America and drinking my coffee. Jack was in Chicago on business, just blocks from the Sears Tower, and scheduled to fly back home that afternoon. Remember after the 2nd tower was hit and they started talking about evacuating other major skyscrapers in the country because they might be possible targets? I was in a panic trying to reach him. I will never forget that day.”
John – “I was in a veterinarians office in Upper Arlington, Ohio repairing an xray machine. I heard some commotion from the employee break room and after finishing the work (a few minutes) I walked over and saw the news that an airplane of some sort had struck the WTC. I was home in 15 minutes and turned on my own TV, and withing a few moments the second plane struck. I stayed by the TV all day. The next day I drove to Chicago to bring two friends back home to Columbus, Ohio.”
Regina – “I was in AZ visiting mom and Delila. Delila and her husband were up packing to go on a trip and I was still asleep. After the first one hit she woke me up and by then the second had hit. Of course she didn’t fly out that day, we stayed glued to the TV. My husband Steven was at work at his Navy Recruiting office at home in TX. They went on an immediate lock down.”
Mavis – “Curt was opening his birthday present and what a Birthday to remember!”
Margaretta – “I was playing golf. I think we were on the 12th hole when the first plane hit. Then we were getting updates almost every hole. All the planes had hit by the time I got back home. Sat glued to the TV for days with Peter Jennings on channel 5. Crying and swearing out loud. It was a terrible week that followed. I was afraid we would get bombed as well and all hell was going to brake loose. It still bothers me to see pictures from that day.”
Steve – “I woke up that morning in Grand Marais, MI, a very small town (with a very good brewpub!) on the east edge of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. AM radio is very spotty on the north coast. I tried to get a station as I drove east towards Sault Ste Marie, but all I could find was a scratchy Orsen Wells sort of drama about some attack on New York. I turned off the radio and drove east. We crossed the border into Canada before noon. The customs guards were agitated, I didn’t know why. We stopped at a touristy roadside store just into Canada, and finally saw the horrible news. Soon after the border was closed. I spent the next several days driving slowly west along the northern shore of Lake Superior.”
Craig – “I was on a military base when it occurred and I remember fighter jets taking off really fast. Somebody came in and said the twin towers were attacked. I was in the office at the AFB on the Cape and couldn’t believe what was happening. I tried to call my wife to make sure she was okay, but a lot of the cell traffic was jammed.”
Roger – “I was on vacation in Cooperstown NY, at the baseball hall of fame. They stayed open on 9-11, but the next day the whole state closed down.”
Bill – “I was traveling from Koshkonong, Missouri to Springfield, Missouri”.
Here is an excerpt from my story “Feathers in the Wind”, it is the end and really sums up how I envisioned the gates of racism, gender, creed, class and citizenship might have all been dropped in that moment:
From the book “Ruins of the Mind: An Anthology“
“Feathers in the Wind”:
Betty continued talking with someone on the phone from home office while passengers throughout the plane spoke in hushed, worried tones to their loved ones. One man was crying softly, “I’m so sorry, honey. I love you . . . ” his voice trailed off.
The brunette grasped Heather’s free hand. Soon, nearly everyone in the galley was holding hands. Their eyes looked around compassionately at faces they had never known, seeking solace in their shared fear. Another thirty passengers and crew members at the back of a plane held hands now too. Neither race, nor gender, nor social standing had any significance here. The only sounds cutting the silence were Betty’s voice and the sound of the plane’s engines, now clearly in descent.
“We’re descending,” Gwen said gravely.
“We have been for a while now,” Heather replied.
“Please tell me we’re landing,” another woman exclaimed in a voice near pleading.
The plane made a sudden jolt listing from side to side as the person behind the controls struggled to control it.
Betty’s voice, suddenly broken from the shaking of the floorboards, was heard saying anxiously, “Okay, the aircraft is erratic again—we’re flying very erratically.”
Jake closed his eyes. He envisioned his girls and wife hiking through the park on a crystalline blue-sky day—a day exactly like today—the radiant warmth of the bright sun resting on his bare shoulders.
The comforting vision of his family calmed and soothed him. This was Jake’s final awareness as the plane crashed into the North Tower of New York City’s World Trade Center—all other thoughts now scattered, just as feathers in the wind.”