Helpful Hank, Remembering when the world stopped turning My personal memories of September 11, 2001


Where were you when the world stop turning that September Day



Howdy all, Helpful Hank here. I want to share my remembrance of September 11, 2001 as we come up on the 10 year anniversary of this event


On September 11, 2001 Americans became a country of Walking wounded. Who came together to show their metal in the face of great tragedy. These are my memories and thoughts of that day and the days that would come.

I can still remember where I was on September 11, 2001. There are somethings that just get etched into memory where the stay and reside for ever.

I had just finished getting the coffee started and I turned on my TV in the kitchen, I headed back to the bedroom to wake my husband. I told him I was starting breakfast and then headed back down to the kitchen and put some bacon in the skillet then poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down at the banket and turned the sound up on my TV. It didn’t register at first, I thought maybe I had it on TNT or TBS and it was watching a disaster movie. I changed the channel one to another to another to yet another and it was all the same image. This was no movie this was real life unfolding in front of me . I yelled up to my husband to turn on the TV, and then turned up the volume on the T.V. In the kitchen.

As I sat at the banket and watch the first tower burning I couldn’t take my eyes off the images flashing before me. The announcer was giving a re-cap on how a plane had crashed into one of the towers at the world trade center and that they didn’t have much more information then that. As he spoke he trailed off as a second plane struck the second tower. Chills still go up and down my spine when I conjure up the image in my head. The images from that day always do give me chills.

I watched in disbelief as the second plane hit the second tower. I thought to myself this can’t be real?What was going on. Why was this happening? This has got to be a movie, I had to be mistaken this couldn’t be real. I reasoned maybe this was like the Orson Well’s radio broadcast of “War of the worlds”? It wasn’t though, as much as I wanted it to be it just wasn’t. This was really happening. The second thought came into my head was, Oh my God! There are people I know and have spent time with in those offices on the 41st and 42nd floors of the tower that had just been hit. I prayed they had called in sick or had meetings outside the office that day. I would be doing a lot of praying over the next few months.

I was glued to my TV, I remember calling my mom in shock asking if she was watching? Indeed she was. My husband who had spent a lot of time in New York for work came down to the kitchen shaking his head in disbelief. Neither one of us had an appetite anymore so I turned off the now burning bacon and we continued to watch it all unfold.

We sat there watching as the top of first tower collapsed, watching people leaning out broken windows screaming for help, people jumping and taking their chances see none coming. With each jumper our hearts would skip a beat and shed tears.

I had to pull away from this. I need to get ready for work. I finally pulled away from the TV and got myself ready for the day. I came back down to the kitchen and caught a few more minutes as my husband sit there watching in disbelief. I left for work, wishing I could have stayed glued to the TV Set. I wanted to call in sick.

I got in my truck making sure that my radio was turned on so I wouldn’t miss any breaking news. I got to work and there were my co-workers there radios and search engines giving them the latest news. No one was able to focus much on work our lunch hours filled with acquiring the latest information. We would not see a lot of new images until we arrive home that night (streaming video was something very new as I recall).

On my way home from work the only thing on the radio seemed to be news and more news. By this time I knew that both towers had collapsed and that another plane had crashed into the Pentagon while yet another had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. I arrived home and turned on the T.V. And watched as they replayed the days events. From the first crash to the sight of business men and women, vendors, retail employees, residents and on lookers running for their lives as the towers eventually and completely collapsed. The gray smoke soot and ash rising in the air. It was surreal, I half expected to see Bruce Willis leading the running crowd to safety as if it were just a movie and not real. Billowing clouds rising and funneling down the streets of the financial district like the giant Stay Puft Marsh mellow man from Ghost Busters. It was over taking the runners like covering them in thick coats of gray ash , no one was escaping, it was all happening much to fast They couldn’t escape. The best that they could hope for was to keep running until they found some sort of refuge.

After the towers collapsed the smoke billows created an eclipse of the sun diminishing it’s light making new york look like a giant fog bank. The images coming across the screen were those of people covered head to toe in soot peering out at the world through raccoon eyes. To those of us watching them run for their lives tears were hard to contain and for many they would not be enough to express what we were feeling inside.

The days to come would bring new images and existing images from different angles. I watched as new details unfolded. I felt Sad, angered and enraged all at once. I wanted to cry, go back to bed and wake up and find I had dreamt it all in a very bad dream but that wasn’t going to happen.

A few weeks later as we watched the same footage for the umpteenth time still trying to make some sense of it all, I was headed into work when a song came on the radio and I had to pull off to the side of the road. It was Alan Jackson singing where were you when the world stopped turning. All I could do was silently sob in my truck as I listen to Alan Jackson sing and unfold September 11th in a very different way. To this day just hearing “where were you when the world stopped turning” or Lone Stars “I’m already there” (the song came to represent flight 93,) in my head, can evoke those same tears.

While others were angry and wanting retaliation swiftly, I could not wrap my head around any of this. As Angry as I was, I was in mourning. I could hear other peoples anger and even feel it but it was inside the fog of anguish, unknowing, sadness and bewilderment. As far as I was concerned at that point the only thing that was of concern was the Human tole ( A tole that is still felt today.). Children growing up without their parents, parents living with the loss of their children, spouses losing spouses. How do you move on from that? Can you? Do you? I don’t have those answers everyone’s journey is different, but at that point everyone’s pain was palpable. New York was now full of walking wounded

Like many Americans I live with the images of that day and those events firmly etched in my brain. I also have the images of the Phoenix that ground zero has become, rising out of the ashes. The twin towers may no longer be there but the spirit of those who lost their lives the goodness that came from peoples hearts and the willingness to help, told the world we are stronger then any structure.

I can still vividly remember the detail of the inside of the second twin tower I was in when I went to visit my colleagues that day while in New York. I remember where the elevator banks were and the security I had to go through to see my colleagues and I remember my long elevator ride up to their offices. I remember it all as if I had just been there last week. It’s a funny thing to remember 12 years later but for me it is a better image to remember then that of the collapse. It is a sweeter image, an image from an unsuspecting time.

Years later my pastor would tell me that there isn’t always a reason why things happen but we can bring reason to whatever has happened.. September 11 2001 just didn’t seem to have a valid reason to me. I can honestly say that in my mind hatred is the only reason that I can bring to this. An for me hatred is a hard reason to validate.

I will always remember those who lost their lives on that day even if I never knew there names. Everyone who was in one of those planes or towers, every rescue worker that came to the scene, every civilian that pitched in these are the people who gave the ultimate gift while having it taken away from them. They gave their lives Some went silently, some prayerfully, some fought with all they had. Some made goodbye phone call and some made sure others had a chance at safety. But each and everyone of them gave the last of what they had to offer . I will also always remember those who pulled and save the living from the wreckage of the towers, Pentagon and planes. The home town heroes who risked and sometimes lost their lives saving other. For me the memory of September 11. 2001 is not about the war that in sued after the tragedy but rather about humans, and coming together. Pitching in, helping out, making a difference, easing the pain of those suffering. For me keeping remembering how it brought out the good in New Yorkers and how they just did what they had to do may be the only way that I might have a chance at putting any reason to September 11, 2001, I’ll never be able to shake those images or feelings I saw and felt that morning, some images and feelings are just to profound to shake. I never found out if my colleagues (at that time) where there and in tower two that day. I had looked at the many list of missing at the time that were being posted online but never found their names. I pray and hope they are safe. Ten years may have past but it feels like yesterday.

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Helpful Hank is written by Russell E. Bertlow © 2009 All rights reserved. No portion of this blog may be reprinted in part or whole without the express written permission from Russell E. Bertlow

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