Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Day Before

Life is beautiful when it wants to be, when you let it be, and when it’s viewed that way. Life is also tragic, heartbreaking and dramatic. It has its ups and downs and frequently changes each day with a new issue or gift to present. I sometimes sit and wonder, if things are so peaceful and calm right now, what’s waiting in the wings to disrupt it all? Something really bad is probably going to happen, or something really exciting is going to take place. Which one will I side with while waiting though? Most people remember the exact time, day and what they were doing when 9/11 hit. But, what you don’t hear about is what people say about the day before 9/11. I remember it all too well, because we were venturing on a new computer software at work that we were grudgingly going to have to adapt to.

During that time, I was working a Tuesday through Saturday shift. I had Monday, Sept. 10th off. I remember thinking how beautiful it was outside and taking in the fresh crisp air of the coming fall. I was sitting out on my hammock relaxing before Tuesday came rolling around quicker than expected. It was one of the last warmest days left, so I took full advantage of it. What could go wrong? I had a great job, I had stability at home and my health was at its best. I remember thinking how fortunate I was to have such a loving close-knit family and friends that were family as well. What else could I want? This day could not be ruined. Maybe it’ll stay that way forever...

From a post written on 9/11/05

“It’s Still In Us”

It was 8am, on September 11th, Tuesday morning. It was Madelene’s day off. I was getting ready for work, scrambling around to see what I was going to wear. Madelene and I ate breakfast together, and then I headed off to the office. I remember walking outside thinking how beautiful it was. The sky was so blue that day, and the air was crisp. I drove down the road and got stuck behind a school bus. All the kids were back to school, and all the busses were stopping at each single house next to one another.  “Can’t they just all meet somewhere in the middle and make it one stop?” I said to myself, frustrated with this stop-and-go ride. I was jacked up on caffeine and anticipating the arrival of 5pm.

I swiped my card through the security doors at my job, and walked up the three flights of stairs—because their elevator was an old rickety-crickety box, that shook uncontrollably as you rode in it. One of my managers got stuck inside of it, while smoke started filling up the confined space. No way. You will never catch me in that thing. I’d rather walk. Besides, I needed to lose a few pounds anyway.

I got to my desk, huffing and puffing, turned on my overhead light and booted my computer up. Packing my purse and other belongings away, I kept thinking what a bad idea it was to beg my managers for a window seat. It was way too beautiful outside to be sitting in this cubical full of sunshine. I’m going to wish this workday away for sure. Maybe I can play sick, start coughing or something. Hmm. They were on to me though; I always weaseled my way out of things. I worked for a telecommunications company selling phone products, long distance calling plans, as well as internet and DSL lines.

8:30 a.m.

I had gone into my inbox and faxed over some information a customer requested. As I was walking through the office full of cubical jail cells, it’s so fascinating how everyone is so fricken cheerful with their fake “Good mornings”.
“Good morning Debbie!”
“Good morning.” I replied, grudgingly.
“Good morning Deb.”
“Hey.” I started losing my ‘good mornings’ to a basic, unprofessional, “hey”.

I ran back to my desk, sat down, and put my phone headsets on. As a customer service rep, I was ready to take these angry customers head on. My caffeine buzz was wearing off, and my grouchiness was moving in its place. A senior rep was sitting next to me to show me the new interface system we were working with. They changed the whole format of their computer mainframe. I needed help. I couldn’t answer calls just yet, until this lady taught me this God awful interface system we now had. As she was teaching me, my mind got overwhelmed with each command and tons of options to choose from on the screen.

“I’m never going to figure this out, and by the time I do, the customer will already have my head on a platter for being so damn slow!”

Heads are popping out of the cubicles one by one. People seemed to be socializing. My manager would soon rip them a new one. Some people were walking out of their cubicles without headsets on. My senior rep teacher and I were still at my desk going over the system as I took notes. Our heads turned each time one of the customer service reps whizzed by frantically to another rep that was still on the phone.

“Oh my God! Really?” I heard the rep behind me say to another girl giving her some sort of news. I chucked it up to gossip. This office was literally a henhouse. If someone was biting their cuticles, the person on the next floor would know about it. God forbid someone received roses, the whole office started clucking like wild hens in heat. Awful. Are offices that kept in from the world that they have to thrive off of other people’s lives? I have to admit, sometimes it was tempting to partake in these gossiping hen fests.

9:05 a.m. 

“A plane hit the World Trade Center!” The rep behind me blurted out to us.
“What?” Molly, the senior rep shouted in disbelief.
“It must have been by accident, but my husband just called and saw it on the news.” She said.
Shaking our heads, we started working again. Our office was always delayed with news. We never received phone calls through our extensions. We were never allowed to use the call center phones. There was a public phone that anyone could use for emergencies. All of our calls were usually monitored by a supervisor and/or tape recorded, so even if we weren’t being tapped into, we still had that fear of ‘someone was listening’ in the back of our minds.

9:10 a.m. 

“Another plane hit the second World Trade Center building!” I heard a rep say this from behind the cubicle wall. I couldn’t see her, but I heard her clear as day.
“Oh this is an attack! This wasn’t an accident!” Another rep said, four cubes down.
“They’re still missing three other planes!” Someone else screamed out from another cubicle.

I dropped my headsets and ran to the phone, but there were too many people waiting for it. I needed to get in touch with Madelene. I wanted to be home with her. I was scared. My office had strict rules - you couldn’t just run off anywhere you’d like, unless you signed off your phone under a project number, a bathroom code, or to ‘see a manager code’. I just dropped everything. My mind was focused on getting to Madelene. I didn’t want her home alone in fear. I wanted to be with her. My mind instantly delved into thoughts of, “What if this is a chemical warfare, or something worse, a suitcase nuclear bomb?”

I finally got my hands on the phone. No time for over analyzing how germ infested this phone receiver was. I didn’t care, because I was going to die from a nuclear holocaust anyway. I started dialing home.

“All lines are busy, please try your call again later.” A recorded operator said in such a non-caring way.
My fifth time, I got through.
“Mad? Mad? Did you see the news?”
“Yeah! Some drunk pilot hit the trade center!” She said to me.
“What? Mad, there was a second air plane that struck the second building too.”
“I know.”
It baffled me that she didn’t think this was a war. She actually thought these airplanes were filled with intoxicated pilots. I think she was in shock. She had the, “this can’t possibly happen to the United States” type of mind frame.

She then heard President Bush’s speech, and then realized after he said we were being attacked, that we were in fact, at war...

It amazed me that my company didn’t let us go into a conference room to hear Bush’s announcement, or to watch the news being unfolded. Many other companies offered this to their employees. Some companies even let their employees go home. Many of the customer service reps had family members inside that building. We had other call centers from other states that helped take our flow of customers, so we could have at least rotated employees to go into the conference room. Our company only cared about ‘call volume’ at our site. They wanted to be number one. Even a tragedy couldn’t stop them. I seriously thought about dropping everything and running home. All of us, regardless if we didn’t have a relative or friend in the trade center, were in distress. We couldn’t focus on our work.

“The lines are down; no one can make calls in or out. You can only make local calls.” One of the mangers yelled out from some cubicle afar.

Instantly, the office was silent. Not only were our phones silent, but the fear had suddenly sunk into our minds, leaving us speechless. Our long distance cable lines were located under the World Trade Center. They were also owned by AT&T, so that trickled over to many other customers. It had such a ripple affect, that it left us scared to know that our communications were down. We were unable to get in touch with loved ones. We were left with only silence.

Later that evening, when I got home, I hugged Madelene—thanking God I was with her now. We watched the news coverage in fear. Not one station was concerned with a television sitcom or their regularly scheduled programs. We were more silent than usual. Even the sky was silent. No airplanes, hardly any cars; everyone was rushing home. No planes were permitted to fly into, out of, or within the United States until September 13. With this knowledge, we knew that we wouldn’t hear a plane while we slept—or tried to sleep.

Tossing and turning that evening, while trying to get some sleep, I heard a loud plane fly over my house. It was so loud that I jumped out of bed in fear and ran outside onto my deck.”They said that there aren’t supposed to be any planes flying!” I yelled out to Madelene.
“Deb, it’s probably the military crafts. That’s why they are so loud.”
I realized she was right, but never before did I have such fear while trying to go to sleep. That night, I didn’t sleep. I was awake, in fear.

I think all of us have a detailed story of that grim day. Some stories are more horrific than others, some stories like ours, can only be sympathetic and heartfelt to the people who lost their loved ones in this tragedy. Nonetheless, I think it’s a day where nearly everybody shed a tear, and was filled with grief and anxiety.

It’s still ‘in us’…

Psalm 91
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare of the Lord;
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I am trusting him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from the fatal plague.
He will shield you with his wings.
He will shelter you with his feathers.
His faithful promises are your armor
and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the
night,
nor fear the dangers of the day,
nor dread the plague that stalks in
darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around
you,
these evils will not touch you.
But you will see it with your eyes;
you will see how the wicked are punished.
If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your
shelter,
no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your dwelling.
For he orders his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you with their hands
to keep you from striking your foot on a
stone.
You will trample down lions and
poisonous snakes;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents
under your feet!
The Lord says, "I will rescue those who
love me.
I will protect those who trust in my
name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue them and honor them.
I will satisfy them with a long life
and give them my salvation.

6 comments:

mrwriteon said...

This was incredibly powerful, Deb. Thank you for it and your first hand view. I had actually forgotten, sad to say, that Sept. 11 is tomorrow.

We couldn't have been farther away than we were -- we were in the Cook Islands in the South Pacific at the time, but the emotional impact was still overwhelming. Added to which, even there, no planes were allowed to fly so we weren't sure for a number of days how we were going to get home.

Just_because_today said...

Psalm 91 is my american express. I never leave home without it. I pray it before I leave the house, every day.
09.11 was a horrific day in the history of the world.
But in response to the first part of your post, the day after (any day other than that one) can be better than today is. With faith and hope we await for it.

DESPERADO said...

Can't believe it's been 8 years already.
Still feels like yesterday.

Kevin said...

Thanks for the story, Deb. I've been to NYC a zillion times, but not once since 9/11.

RedRaven1968 said...

Thanks for posting that recollection of 11 Sep 01. I very rarely get to speak or read any stories or personal accounts from people who actually live in or around NYC. I will be sharing where I was and how I experienced it all, on my blog.
P.S. I have only just now recieved Email notice of 2 comments on my blog from you. I don't know whats going on.

the walking man said...

There is yet unfinished business with them who did this thing. I would that we plow forward to the end then tell the story completely.