|The day began like so many others...
watching the news and eating breakfast. CNN was running a story about a
plane that had crashed into the WTC. It was fascinating - somehow some pilot
had made such a mistake as to run into the WTC. It was a disaster, but somehow
it was just "yet another disaster" another one of those things
that randomly happens from day to day.
And then the second plane crashed into the WTC.
I sat there stunned... two planes? This wasn't an accident, this was deliberate. I had just witnessed the murder of hundreds of people on live TV. They replayed the impact. I watched the plane come in tilted at a jaunty angle. It hits the building and the fireball erupts and flows through the building. The debris comes flying out the building engulfed in fire. In my mind I see various scenes:
I see people shredded by sharp jagged metal, people burnt by rivers of flaming fuel, people crushed by heavy objects, people dying in shocked agony, people who in their last moments of pain call out for mothers, spouses, and children, or for God.
I see innocent people -- people like me -- going about their daily business working to support their families suddenly burnt or crushed or shredded in agonizing pain.
I see them murdered.
And I see it again.
The plane keeps crashing into the building, time after time after time.
The murders keep happening, and it's real. It's not special effects. There are hundreds of people on that plane and they keep dying. There are thousands of people in that building and they keep dying. Over and over and over. I can't do anything about it. I cannot stop the planes, I cannot evacuate the building, I cannot turn away from the TV. I watch them die time after time after time.
The story goes on. The fire department is there. As a volunteer firefighter I have some link to these brave men and women. I see the TV coverage of men rushing in with axes, air packs, hoses, and such, and I know what they are doing. I've "been there, done that". Not in a 100 story building but in my own rural community. I review in my mind what I know about fighting fires in tall buildings. I imagine the men going through those drills. I am with them in spirit as they run up the stairs to fight the red beast... to save lives and protect property.
And then the buildings collapse.
There are hundreds of firefighters in those two towers, and I watch them die. I watch the buildings collapse. The firefighters are dying inside of those buildings as they collapse. They are being crushed by uncountable tons of steel and concrete...
The passengers and office workers were innocent victims and they were murdered. But this is murder most foul. These are people who rushed in to save the innocent. These are people who risk their lives to HELP others. These people will brave flames and collapse for anyone - black, white, christian, jew. They are more than innocent when they fight fires, they are beyond moral questions and beyond race color and creed. Sure, when a firefighter is off duty he is just a man like any other, with prejudices and opinions and moral warts. But when they are on a firescene they can achieve a purity of purpose that embodies the best attributes of mediaeval chivalry. They are truly our modern knights in nomex armor.
And these innocents - these brave rescuers - these temporarily morally pure men and women are being crushed to death in front of my eyes. Hundreds of them. My brothers and sisters in the fire service are being murdered for some unknown reason.
I have to do something.
I ask my wife for some black velvet that she has in her sewing stock. I take a sheet and a spray can, and I dress up in my class A uniform. I drive to the town, and ask the post master to lower his flag to half-staff, and lower the flag on the city building to half-staff.
I pull out our two best trucks and park them side by side on the road that goes through town. I drape the black cloth over the hood of one, and paint "IN MEMORIAM FDNY" on the sheet and drape it over the windscreen of the other. I drape the department's flags on the engines, and then put a pair of boots upside down and backwards in front of the two engines. And then I stand honor guard until dusk.
At one point I have to leave for a few minutes. When I come back somebody has put a bouquet of artificial flowers on the pumper. I still have those flowers. They are hanging on my wall. They say to me that somebody else cared. It is a connection between people in a time of gross inhumanity. Someone else cared.
This little memorial was all I could do. I couldn't stop the plane, even though I had seen it crash a dozen times. I couldn't save those people. I couldn't stop the buildings from collapsing. I couldn't save the firefighters. I couldn't stop their pain and shock and sorrow. I couldn't heal the families. I was too far away to go and help.
Oh, I did other things... I volunteered to go for the rescue mission, but they didn't need me. I donated money. But none of that will ever address my real need - to reach out and stop that plane... that plane that even now in my mind hits that building over and over and over. To save those firefighters... to make it right. I will never be able to do that
I cried over 9-11 a few months later. I was driving in my car and something finally triggered it off. It seems strange to think that I had been holding it in for so long, but I guess I was. I had to pull the car off to the side of the road and I just finally let it go. It helped, but there is still a large knot of feeling in my chest about 9-11, a feeling I don't understand. I suspect that I'm not over it. I suspect that I will never be over it.
Because on 9-11 I watched murder and death, over and over and over again, and I couldn't do a thing about it. They were my people, my brothers, my comrades in service to others.
And they were killed because they cared.
PlagueRat, August 22, 2002