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Friday, September 11, 2009

Scraping the Sky--Remembering September 11, 2001

Brilliant idea. Take a mother and her son to the top of a skyscraper in downtown Minneapolis. Take them to the observation deck and watch them grip the walls of the open air deck with their fingernails and hyperventilate. Watch while they hit the wall next to the entrance, freeze, and then slowly rush back inside without screaming.

Who's brilliant idea was this?

Um. Mine.

Why is it that I think, like a virus, that Acrophobia will just get better. Fear of heights is not cured by repeated exposure or a vaccine. You'd think I'd remember that.

Oh no, in the interest of playing tourist in my own hometown, I decide that we should go exploring a little piece of downtown. Not a great idea, but it was fun, except for the 20 seconds of sheer terror at the top.

Skyscraper observation decks are getting few and far between since 9/11. We have one in downtown Minneapolis run by the Minnesota Historical Society. Foshay Tower. The dream of a man named Foshay who built the skyscraper in 1929 right before the stock market crash. Back then, it was the tallest building in the Midwest. He built it to look like the Washington monument, getting skinnier the higher it scraped the sky.

D took the upstairs pictures. I preferred the view from below. Maybe being grounded isn't such a bad thing.

Education comes in many forms and while the displays about Foshay and the building of his tower were interesting, the conversation sparked by a man asking us for spare change was much more enlightening.

This day brings back so many memories for me. While our country was being attacked, my body was being attacked. I was downtown Saint Paul in a hospital with D and Young One having a battery of tests done. I still didn't know what was wrong with me, but I knew I was sick. As I lay on a radiology table, the tech turned the radio up. I was there for a long test and we were constantly updated with the confusing reports of the attack. "They hit the other tower" "They hit the Pentagon" "People are jumping to their deaths to avoid the flames"

I cut the test short, getting up from the table and pulling out my own IV. Nobody even tried to stop me. I reunited with my family, and we headed out of the metro area. We didn't want to be anywhere near big buildings. The parking attendant shared my tears as we left the ramp. Traffic was almost at a stop. It was like an end of the world movie, but real, stark in it's focus.

D was calm and focused. I could tell he was scared.

My parents, brother, and his wife were in Scotland. We couldn't reach them and didn't know if they would be stuck there or if the attacks were world wide. We couldn't fathom how we would deal with them being on such a long flight again. We didn't even know when they would possibly be able to make it home. We stayed glued to Peter Jennings (somehow his calm presence helped us deal with it all better.) Phone lines were jammed.

We sat, we watched in horror, and we waited.

What I remember most was the quietness of the streets. No one went anywhere. And when my family made it safely home from Europe, we couldn't begin to tell them what it was like. America at a standstill for a few days. Like nothing anyone had ever seen. People spoke in funeral tones. People shared and cried and called you up just to connect, to see where you were, if you knew anything.

The country was in shock and then mourning and then, understandably angry.
I didn't lose anyone that I knew, but since then, I've met people who lost friends and family. When we were young dumb kids, we stayed in the World Trade Center Marriott and visited Windows on the World and the observation deck. We were thrilled to stay (thanks to a cousin's employee discount) in a room overlooking the Statue of Liberty. The hotel was destroyed in the attack.

Those buildings! They were invincible, they couldn't fall. We walked like wide eyed country folk as we maneuvered the labyrinth of the basement "mall" of shops. We passed thousands of people on their way to work or appointments or visiting, just like us. We felt small in the shadows.

As the second tower came down, I thought of all those people. I thought of all those stores and parking garages. I thought of the kids, visiting like us, wide-eyed, from out of town. All, beneath the rubble.

It doesn't get any easier, the remembering.

The noise of the people hitting the ground as they fell to their death, this I will never forget. They quit airing it, mercifully, after the news casters realized what that noise was.

The flutter of millions of pieces of paper as it wafted away. Papers that so many people had touched, made, printed, composed.

The shocked faces covered in ash.

Rescue workers going in as everyone was running out.

Being on top of what is now a very small skyscraper and looking (albeit) briefly at the enormity of the fall. Well, I cannot imagine.

Peace and blessings and true remembrance today for those that were lost. You will not be forgotten.

This is not the day to criticize the mistaken war against a country that had nothing to do with this attack. This is a day of remembrance. We have several pictures from our trip and a couple of professional ones in frames, that feature the dominance of those towers over the New York Skyline. I can't look at them without remembering all of this.

I wish they'd turn those big beams of light back on as a permanent tribute. The skyline doesn't look right without the towers and not seeing them isn't enough of a memorial.

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