|This picture does not convey the sober|
tone of the post, but I loved the image
as a child.
I want to convey the confusion of that day to those of you who were too young to really grasp it at the time. We had absolutely no idea what was going on, or what the scope of it was. I heard a remembrance over the weekend of a man who was in Ukraine at the time, and all he saw were videos and images of buildings and explosions and fires. To him and his travelling companions, unable to understand the audio of the news stories, it looked like every city in the U.S. had been attacked. To those of us huddled before TV's on that day, we wondered if that was going to happen. Tension and uncertainty remained even after it was clear that the attacks were complete. I remember one of my coworkers saying, "The first person who makes a joke about this gets punched in the stomach."
In the days following the attacks, all U.S. commercial aircraft were grounded. My workplace and home are in the flight path of passenger and commercial airports. Seeing and hearing planes, and a sky filled with contrails, are commonplace here. The complete lack of all civilian aircraft during those days was eerie, evocative of a time at night when all the crickets and frogs suddenly go silent. The sky was clear and free of the normal vapor evidence of air traffic. It looked like air technology had been set back 100 years.
Even after the air traffic started again, we found ourselves pausing when an aircraft passed over. Conversation would stop until it had passed. It was months before we stopped reacting to anything passing overhead.
Oh, and it only took until Wednesday for someone to make a joke about it. We were sitting in the break room flipping through channels on the crappy TV there to watch any news, but stopped trying and left the TV on "J.J. the Jet Plane" on the local PBS affiliate. A coworker (Sheila) asked, "They aren't going to crash into any buildings are they?" We all just stared at her. Sure, some people react to stress differently than others. Other people are just idiots. Nobody got punched.