Remembering a Personal 9-11

I’ve been reading all day about remembrances of September 11, 2001. That got me to doing some reminiscing of my own. Everyone has a story. Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing. Here’s mine.

At the time, I was the project manager on a massive government relocation program. We were moving about 1,200 state employees from the GA Dept of Revenue off of Capitol Hill in Atlanta out to an outlying location about 10 miles from the Capitol. Every Tuesday morning at 7 am, we had a project status meeting with the department heads. There were about 20 people in each of these meetings.

I was temporarily housed in the new building and we were having the first of these weekly meetings there. Our IT department had already moved and I was occupying a cubicle on their floor.

The meeting broke up and I returned to my temporary cubicle to answer a call from my wife. Because she was a teacher, and two months pregnant at the time, I was disturbed to receive a call from her at that hour – wondered why she wasn’t at school. The news she had for me was shocking. As I listened to her telling me what was happening, I looked across the way and saw a group of middle eastern programmers watching a video on their computer screen of smoke coming out of the side of the WTC and speaking loudly in a language I obviously couldn’t understand. But it got worse.

I immediately left for the day. Not because of what was happening in NYC, but because the news my wife told me on the phone was much more personal. She was losing our baby.

I imediately raced home (12.8 miles – a short commute by Atlanta standards) and held her as she writhed in pain. Together, we saw the North Tower collapse.

Jean and I had been married for two and a half years by that time. We honeymooned for 10 days in NYC and had visited there again just a few months prior for our “once in a lifetime” experience of standing in 18 degree weather watching Dick Clark from about 60 feet away in Times Square. On that trip, we had shopped in the mall below the WTC, I vividly remember the girl who helped us at the Coach Store. We bought clothes at Century 21 across the street, and toured the little church and cemetery down the block. New York was our adopted vacationland. We had even considered moving there, and I had gone on several interviews there before the job with the State of GA came along.

So, my reminiscence of 9-11 involves some deeply personal stuff. We didn’t lose any loved ones in the attacks that day, but I couldn’t (and still can’t) get it out of my head wondering how many people we had seen on that trip who may have been killed that day. How many of them were instantly disintegrated? How many of those that we said “Hi” to, as crazy southerner tourists? How many were just GONE? 

But we had one of our most intimate experiences as a family that day. We cried a lot and prayed a lot that day and in the days to come. Mercifully, God had a plan for us that we did not understand at that time. We stayed in Atlanta. Our daughter was born almost exactly 10 months later. And we have had so many blessings since that time, I can’t name them all. I will mention that the best news out of that day was that my college roommate’s daughter was born that day. Easy to remember her birthday.

But the horror we felt as we watched all those years ago . . .  is ingrained in our psyche. We still feel it to this day. We will never forget.



Filed under Christianity, Georgia Government, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Remembering a Personal 9-11

  1. Wow. I knew parts of this story, but not all of it. Thanks for sharing. I got to see a little piece of your private life that you tend to keep carefully guarded. You are a gifted writer, and your narrative voice is so strong! I will follow your blog closely in the future not just because of our longtime friendship, but because I enjoy reading Todd Kelly’s writing. Keep it up!

  2. I can agree with you there. The further removed we are from the events, the further it becomes less of an impact in some ways.

    From a personal reflection, those insignificant trials in my own life are now far removed and but a mere fading recollection. These wounds do heal. The question is, how are we allowing ourselves to heal from it.

    I love how Victor Guzman said it when he reflected on his own reflection of whether or not he wants closure because of how he focuses more on his impact on the lives of his family, church, friends, and community.

    Some may not see it and continue on living a life that they believe is meaningful to them in some way, but have not significantly allowed any serious change in their view and outlook on how they interact and relate with others.

  3. As you remembered that specific day, how has it changed your perspective on our culture? Has it drawn you closer to your family? Has there been more meaning in your life?

    I ask this out of all sincerity because, much like you stated, I have read everyone’s personal story. Tragic, yes, inspiring, definitely. Yet, there seems to be an emptiness within those posts that reflect on the tragedy. It almost gives me the sense that we are gathering around the rubble, murmuring about how tragic that day was, reliving the day all over again and have not fully moved on individually and as a nation.

    This is my impression and what I wrote in my own blog about this day of remembering.

    Just some thoughts to think about.

    • Interesting. I read with interest your article on this topic. Several chapters in our lives have opened and closed during the past 8 years. As time goes by, I fear that we, as a nation, will lose the immediacy of the impact of these events, much like we seem to have done with the anniversary of Pearl Harobr Day and D-Day. I remember my grandparents’ generation, and to a lesser degree, our parents’ generation being so reverent about these days. Much as my parents are about the death of JFK. I think as time goes by, we lose the emotion, and the sense of realness.
      Recall that for about a year afterward, you could still see flag stickers everywhere. Where are they now? Are we less American? No. Are we less vulnerable to attack? No. Should we be less unified? No.

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