After the morning rosary, my first thoughts were fixed on 9/11/01, twenty years ago to the day. I prayed to Jesus and Mary for the souls who perished, the families and loved ones who continue to grieve, and for the cessation of the kind of evil that caused 911 and evil that continues to cause similar events to this day.
I woke up that beautiful sunny September morning twenty years ago today and took an early train from Bernardsville, NJ to Penn Station and crossed the street to 5 Penn Plaza for another workday at my job as a producer at CNN. I was just about the first at one the office at 7:30 am and I focused on the guests and stories that would be presented on-air for the day. As I started my research and assembled the material, one of my colleagues loudly exclaimed, “come to the window and look downtown! It looks like a little plane went into a building!”
Those of us in the newsroom gathered at the large window on the south side of our office on the 20th floor where Lou Dobbs and his assistant had their desks. What I saw was a stream of smoke wafting from one of the Trade Towers as it looked as if the plane hit from the north side, our vantage point. At this time, we had no idea the size of the plane, the scope of the damage, or the magnitude of what was to come next. We all stood there motionless, speechless, holding our collective gaze at the scene a few dozen blocks south of us. Then, we soon learned the horrifying truth as another commercial airliner jet approached from the north, low and slow, and slammed into the other tower, right before our eyes! We were under attack! The managing editor started shouting, but we didn’t really know what to do or who to call so we all just lingered at the window… stunned and fixated on this tragic scene.
Then, we witnessed live – the first tower crumbling like a sandcastle right in front of us and my first thoughts were: “The humanity! Lives lost at this very second!” But why wasn’t I more outraged and sobbing at the course of events unfolding right before my eyes? Because it was surreal. It just didn’t seem real, this couldn’t be happening! I was shocked, and that fact alone of being in shock prevented me from feeling the appropriate emotions that channeled in slowly over the next minutes and hours as what really happened sunk in. The violent images we see on TV, movies, and the internet have programmed us not to feel effect because, “it’s just only a movie.” BUT THIS WAS REAL! Everyone at the window was still silent, except for one lone voice that merely dropped one word: the F-bomb. We then witnessed the second tower collapse.
At this point, I called all my family members…My husband doing business in Charleston SC…My Mother in Manhasset…My four daughters, three at college, the oldest at work. I was able to tell them to turn on the TV and that I was OK in Manhattan. Then, the phone lines went down, there was nothing we could do. I always have to do something to help in a case like this. I proceeded to walk 22 blocks to St Vincent’s Hospital on W12th St in the West Village where I was born 46 years earlier and requested that they accept my blood donation, as I have rare negative A type~~~~The sad part is the hospital was already with the gurneys, on the street even, but nobody came…victims either walked away or died.
Our country, our world, all of us, had reached the point of no return. The world changed permanently that fateful day. Many of our freedoms were lost, the world became more skeptical, guarded, and cynical because we had to protect ourselves. That single event ushered in the era of security checks and scanning machines in airports, everywhere.
Now we have covid. We got vaccinated and hoped it was over. Now the evil thing just keeps mutating, and more freedoms are lost. We can no longer travel as freely as we once did because again, we have to protect ourselves.
As we keep our loved ones close, and do the best we can, we are grimly aware that this life holds no guarantees. All we can do is consciously live WWJD lives…and pray, as prayer is our best weapon…and His Faithful will be with Him in Paradise, our next life.
-Paula Flaherty, St. Mary Parishioner