Bearing Witness from a ways off (9/11)

September 11, 2010 at 11:31 AM (9/11) ()

It started when I was watching news and eating my 7:00 am Mountain Time. I was frozen, like everyone. I cried, even though I only had one person, a cousin, living in New York.  I called her parents.  They advised she was fine.

(I miss Aaron Brown. He hung in there as all the newsers tried to do, to make sense of the sensless.)

Out here in the Rockies or maybe anywhere else that wasn’t New York, or DC or Shanksvile unless you had friends co-workers or family in NYC, maybe our job was just to witness. So that later on, when we are all old, we’re going to be able to tell people that have only seen it as a historical event what we were feeling.

In New York, the most agonizing witness, surely. But the idea I’m trying to put across is that you in New York and the other places hit, were forced to be participants in a way the rest of us (with the above exceptions) were not.

So, I was driven to work as per usual by my roomate who worked in the same building.  When I came up the elevator, the normally peaceful, calm, cheerful, professional best boss I ever had was in a quiet but obvious rage.  Thankfully, his anger cooled quickly and he was all business.

I had a cubicle/call center job. (only kind of work I could do). He gathered us all together and said,

“This is going to be a difficult day for us.  Old people who are alone are going to call us. Just to have someone to talk to.  So, I ask you, no matter how frightening this gets, to make a special effort to put across calm today. In addition, some of the customer service folk who work for one of our vendors will be unsettled today too, because they have many many co-workers in one of the buildings just across from the World Trade Center. We’ll have the TV’s on in the cafeteria, but I ask that you stay on the phones, and watch if you want to at lunches or breaks.

Okay…Let’s go.”

And he knew what he was talking about, because in between regular customers, that is exactly what happened. There was hushed speculation in between calls about why, and who did it, did they get out, jesus did you see the jumping, and my god our world is changed…but on the phones we projected steady.  Calm.  Competent.  And compassionate if we got someone who had people in NYC.

They let us out early at 3:00 Mountain, to be with friends and family.

That evening it was Peter Jennings on my tube. He was trying, but he projected more emotion than Brown if I remember correctly. I miss him too.

And I cried some more, seeing what was left.

A story like all of us at a bit of a remove from what so many had to deal with close up, I guess.

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