My 9/11 Story


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My 9/11 Story

My 9-11 story is neither long nor significant. I did not suffer any loss, nor any trauma that affected many. But each year on this date, I am reminded of the series of strange events that occurred the night before and the remainder of that week.

On the morning of 9-11, 2001, I slept late.

Normally, I would have been up early and gone for a run with my wife. We had been married less than a year and were in the habit of getting up early and going for a run through the neighborhood on most mornings. But on this morning things were different, but not for the reasons you probably expect.

The night before we had gone to bed at a somewhat reasonable hour. I read a bit, then turned off the light to sleep. As I tried to fall asleep, what sounded like a dog fight erupted, then some screaming. The next thing I know, I can hear a siren in the distance, growing louder and louder until it was literally outside out bedroom window. More sirens were coming.

Startled, I stepped to the window to see what the heck was going on. At first it seemed to be firetruck, stopped in front of our neighbor’s house. Then several police cars, an ambulance and some other vehicles arrived – quickly.

There was some shouting going on and truthfully, I was a little nervous.

Some of the officers were keeping their distance. The paramedics were tending to someone, but more and more cars were showing up. It was a circus of lights and things didn’t seem to be calming down any time soon.

After about a half hour, not a single vehicle had left. There was plenty of noise outside and no way to try to sleep and emergency lights were reflecting throughout our house, which didn’t make our dog very happy.

It was at this point I noticed a few of our other neighbors standing in their yards trying to decipher the situation. The police were not cautioning them to go back indoors, so I stepped out to speak with a few.

What I discovered was a complete mess.

First of all, I lived in a corner house, of two streets which made a T. Most of the people at this intersection rented, as did we, but the two families right at the top of the T had lived in the neighborhood for over 30 years. They also didn’t like each other. They also liked to drink – a lot.

One of the neighbors I never saw without a large beer in either of their hand, if it was after 3 in the afternoon. The family was actually pretty nice. The husband was a hard-working electrician, while the wife ran the business side for his company. They were always friendly and outgoing.

The other family never spoke to anyone in the neighborhood. The husband had two military cannons in the front yard and was only seen when he walked out to get the mail or the newspaper in his robe. I swear. I don’t ever remember seeing the guy wearing actual clothes.

That night, the cannon-owner’s wife had been walking their little dog down the street. On their way back, past the other house, the second family’s dog apparently got loose from their yard and came running at the first woman and their dog. Neither of these dogs weighed more than 10 pounds. The second dog scratched or bit the woman walking her dog.

The other family heard this and came running out to corral their dog and get him back in the yard while the injured woman headed back home.

Then all hell broke loose.

Cannon-man becomes outraged that his wife has been injured and decides to take matters into his own hand. He grabs a gun and, in his bathrobe, wanders into the street and over to the neighbor’s house to try and shoot the offender’s dog.

Not to be outplayed, the other family steps out of their house with a shotgun, all the while calling the police.

The woman who was injured has returned her dog to their home and has returned, screaming at her husband to put the gun away and come home.

That’s when the fire department arrived, closely followed by five police cars, an ambulance and, subsequently, animal control.

In the end, cannon-man’s wife was cared for by the paramedics. The police miraculously did not arrest anyone and somehow got their drunk asses back into their own houses and the attack dog was taken by animal control. This wasn’t easy and it was almost 2 a.m. before things had finally settled down.

My adrenaline settled, I decided to set my alarm for just before 8 a.m.

The next morning, my alarm went off, but instead of playing music there was a weird, almost unbelievable news story being relayed. My mind was in a fog from the night before and as a struggled to make sense of it, I found my way to the television.

Two minutes later I saw the second plane go into the tower.

The world was not making sense.

Everyone knows the story after that and each has their own memories of bewilderment, pain, anger…

The world has been a different place ever since that morning.

I was supposed to fly somewhere that weekend for work, but of course that was cancelled. What was not cancelled was football. The decision later that week to play games I felt was a smart one. We needed to try and gain back that sense of community we had lost on that fateful day in New York.

That Saturday I drove to Milford to watch games.

I relished the opportunity to see friends and escape the fog that had descended upon us.

Football was cathartic and that’s important to remember, as we now try to return to normal lives, after the immediate tragedies the state has suffered. Football plays just as an important role in that normalcy.

Like I stated in the beginning, my story is not one of personal loss or suffering, but rather my unique remembrances of that horrible week. I hope you find it interesting and share those you may have from those trying times.
The principal, another teacher, and me left the school that morning with about twenty Juniors and Seniors who were attending a career day symposium. This was held at Texas Tech's United Spirit Arena. This arena seats about 20k and in the outer hallway has tv's about every fifty feet or so to enable fans to watch the game while getting concessions. When we got there these tv's were showing videos of various companies that were in attendence. Not many of the kids even gave the tv's a second glance.

There were probably a couple of thousand students in attendance. As the morning progressed, as I was walking back up to these hallways, I noticed huge crowds of students gathering around these tv's. The first crowd that I passed seemed to be watching a sci-fi creation. I can remember passing representatives from Boeing and other aviation type careers earlier, and assumed this was one of their videos. I moved on down the hall. As I approached the second group, I heard gasps and several exclamations, wondering if this was real. I paid closer attention this time and was awestruck that the tv was tuned to CNN and I assured several of them that this did indeed seemed real. I stood mesmerized watching this tv with about fifty seventeen and eighteen year olds for the next thirty minutes or so. During this time the second plane struck and I noticed tears running down a few of the students faces.

Within the next hour the principal had gathered up all of our students and we headed back to the school in almost silence. The rest of that school day was a blur and, I even let the football players go home without practice that day.

That evening my wife and I watched tv and discussed the possibility of my re-joining the Army. At the time, I had been out of the Army for eight years, but the days events had such a profound affect on me, that I believed that I should do whatever I could. I took the next day off and visited the recruiter. At thirty-four, having had both knees operated on, and two young sons, I was not exactly what the Army was looking for any more. I was crushed and felt hopeless. Slowly, over the next couple of weeks the routine of school and practices helped me refocus and somewhat get back to normal.

Not a year goes by that I don't get an empty feeling. Such loss and grief is hard for me to reconcile. I will most assuredly say a prayer for those that were affected much more personally than me.
I was taking roll in first period in the bustling metropolis of Whitharral America. I remember stepping into the hallway and seeing Josh Brooks - a senior who was supposed to be in my class - in the hall. Josh was that kid that every school has - good kid, but always late and always with an excuse. As i ask him where he's been he starts with some tale about "there's been a bombing in New York. Some terrorist flew a plane into a building."
My immediate response is to tell Brooks to zip it and stop with the wild stories, but something about his face said this wild story might actually be true.

Our house in Whitharral was literally across the street from my classroom. I could look out my class window and see my then 3 year old (now college freshman) watching Blue's Clues. As Brooks and I walked into my classroom i looked out my window and saw my wife sitting on the floor glued to the television. I knew it wasn't Blue's Clues. I went across the street just in time to see the second plane crash live.

I was in Milford that Friday. We didn't know if our team was going or should go. The whole world had changed and we didn't know how to exactly respond. But we went, and we played. I remember speaking to my friend Granger that day. I remember my dad going out and helping hold a flag on the field as they asked all current or former military members to help with that honor. I remember a newfound pride in my Vietnam Veteran father. I remember a certain healing normalcy in that day of football.

Seems surreal now, but as I visited New York this summer and walked through the memorials and museums all of those memories flooded back to to me. Of looking across the street as I had hundred of times and not seeing Blues Clues, but CNN. I've thought that was a little symbolic of some lost innocence that day.