Editor’s note: After the September 11th attacks, I sent out a request in our eNewsletter. Here’s what it said:
"I haven’t been able to get away from the news for the past week, and I’m sure most of you feel the same way. Wherever you were, whatever you were doing, you’ll probably remember the specifics for a long time. But memories deteriorate.
While I often find myself begging (almost) for more contributions, this request is of a different nature. Please take a few minutes to reflect on the past week and write down your experiences. I want to know where you were, how you reacted, what you saw, what you didn’t see.
I want to know how this has affected people. I will try to find a way to share it with everyone; or no one, if you prefer."
What I received soon thereafter surprised me. I not only received more contributions than I expected, but I found myself coming to terms with things through the reactions of those who wrote back.
I encourage you to read each and every response, for they represent a fraction of what I received. Please remember that these are uncensored responses that might offend you. Read and digest. Perhaps it will help you too.
– Michael Browne, October 2001
By Dan McCormack
San Diego, CA
As a cyclist in San Diego, CA- quite geographically distant from the events of September 11th, I was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming and emotional reactions people had to this tragedy.
On the morning of the 11th, I rode my bike as usual to work in La Mesa, where I work with five other men in a surveying and engineering firm. As we prepared the vehicles to head out in the field, my boss came in and said his mom had just told him "something crazy" on the phone, something about a plane crashing in New York City. We all were obviously incredulous and soon located the old black and white TV that had not been used for years.
Even as it sputtered to life, we heard a national broadcaster excitedly describing the events as they unfolded on the east coast. The very first picture to come up was that of a smoke-engulfed Manhattan, followed closely by photos of the gaping hole in the Pentagon Building.
Over the following 18 hours, we followed the radio as we worked. My brother in Salinas, CA skipped work and called every family member and friend he knew living near the events to locate and account for them and tell each of them that everyone else was OK. My wife and I watched the news and spent time on the phone until very late into the night.
As the day became days and the images closer and more gory/insightful we watched less TV and began to react as a community. First came the candlelight vigils, the flowers at designated spots, and radio/TV/community silences for the victims. Following that, people decorated their vehicles and businesses with flags and slogans as a way to advertise their sorrow, fortitude and unity of support for the victims and relief effort. Bridges were grafittied with national emblems and vows to bring justice. Red, white, and blue appeared in many imaginative ways, which encouraged more and more to add their voices and money.
Even now, when people can only keep tabs on the news, try to recover their business interests and wonder where the enemy is, I continue to see advertisers putting up flag billboards, construction cranes with patriotic banners, and people being nicer than usual. Mostly because (I believe) they see now that life is finite and they can’t expect not to see death nearby. I hope that we can keep this new unity of peace and support whatever happens in the next few months/years because ultimately when we know and support those around us we not only live better lives but also gain a certain security in our surroundings.