I can’t sleep because I have something weighing on my mind, something that I need to finally begin to cope with before I will be able to get rest. And I know this is a few days (and a few years!) behind the rest of the world, but I finally am going to attempt to write about 9-11-01, where I was and how it is affecting me today. Please forgive me if my writing is stilted, but I am weary, upset and apprehensive about putting this down in written words. But write it out I must, for that is my life’s calling to write about difficult issues such as these, and I know this burden will keep me awake until it is dispatched . . .

As to my location and activities that fateful day, I was blissfully unaware of the horror that struck our nation for the early part of the crisis because Ian–who was a few months shy of 2–and I were at home where we lived then in Altoona, PA, contentedly watching Playhouse Disney–which kindly, for the audience they cater to, did not break in with the tragedies of the day like other non-cable channels would have. I may have gone completely ignorant of the whole thing until my husband came home from work if I had not had an appointment with my podiatrist.

There was, conveniently, a television in the waiting room, and it had helped many a time as I waited to see the doctor. But this time, instead of comfort and distraction, it brought confusion and pain when I saw the weirdest image on the screen that stayed consistently frozen. The others in the waiting room explained to me that it was one of the two World Trade Center towers burning, because they had been hit by planes, and that the Pentagon had been attacked as well. A fellow patient was frantic even beyond the general horror because her son worked some days at the Pentagon, and she didn’t know if he would be there that day. The doctor–who was in the Army reserves at the time, I believe one of the Airborne divisions–left her call for information to assuage her fears. (The doctor, who was in his forties at the time and had a busy practice, resigned soon after, realizing he was no longer in the condition to be jumping out of airplanes . . . can’t blame him at all, and from a patient’s stand-point, it was difficult enough to get in to see him as it was without Altoona being one podiatrist short.)

After the appointment, because I was not ready to go home and be alone with a child who couldn’t understand what mommy was so worried and sad about, we went to Wal-Mart where I walked him around in his stroller so he could watch the people and I could feel the comforting presence of others sharing the pain I was going through watching what was unfolding before us on the television’s in the electronics department.

I believe it was there that I first heard about Flight 93 crashing in Shanksville, and despite all the specultions that were bandied about among the gathered crowd of fellow shoppers seeking comfort in numbers, I believe I correctly discerned what had happened then already–that the plane had been brought down by the passengers and that it had been headed for DC. (Or maybe this is a fairy tale remembrance, but I don’t think so–I just had an intuition on it and usually it is right on that sort of thing.)

This may sound terrible to admit, but except for the flight crashing just a few flight minutes away from our home (what a hand of God that guided that plane into the deserted field!!!!) I was desensitized to the situation because I did not know then or even know of now anyone that I knew affected by the multiple tragedies that day. I was scared, granted, but I’ve never really been able to engage emotionally as others because it just didn’t seem real to me–like it was just a movie, and only a movie. I even was in DC in Novemeber of that year, and I believe I saw the Pentagon (not sure though because of access points being diverted, but I did see it twice since then) but it still seemed too fantastical for words or comprehension.

I suppose we all have our ways of coping, and I guess mine was to build a wall around my mind and my heart to keep me even further insulated from the agony I would feel if I let it sink further into my consciousness.

That started to change with watching the Fox series “Rescue Me” starring Dennis Leary, on DVD’s from Netflix. Through these fictional characters I was able to experience the pain on a more personal level and drop some of the reserve that I had between myself and the horrible day.

In the past few months, my husband and I viewed “World Trade Center” and “Flight 93” (which he purchased), and the wall I had structured started to crumble. Add to this a visit to Shanksville last month (I will add pictures at the bottom) and it starts to become more real with each passing day.

I had long developed a story idea based on September 11th, inspired by the fact that day was the last birthday of my friend’s dad who soon died of cancer. I wondered how he felt, knowing that he was to die soon, about all the lives that were wasted that day–lives that should have continued if not for a horrible plot that changed the face of the world.

Unfortunately, I never got around to working on that story before now, but I am starting to see that this may now be time to begin work on it, because of a wonderful deus ex machina of a man encouraging me to write seriously again, and the utter coincidence of also being in the same classroom two young men of Middle Eastern descent–one of whom I feel led to talk to (and highly recommended as a friend of a friend), in hopes of learning more about their culture and understand it from a direct source rather than the media. I think this is a wonderful coincidence, because to write about this story I will have to deal with the buried anger, fear, prejudice and possibly hate that comes with this issue. And since I am not a person who likes to be dictated to by such base emotions, I am grateful for this possible opportunity for this cultural discourse.

Aaach–sounding like a government brochure, so stiff and pompous. Must mean it is time to add the photos and go prepare to get Ian out of bed and ready for school. But I need to write out this one detail, even though I am starting to get foggy–I am afraid to pull off the bandages of 9-11 because I may have the same fear I had one day when I realized that an ex-boyfriend who abused me might be at a convention I was attending, and I started to panic with a terror that I never realized I had. I am afraid that when I start coping with 9-11 I will start to see Muslims as the enemy and that I will be filled with an irrational fear even though I know now in my rational mind that not all Arab-speaking people are terrorists and out to hurt all Americans. So, isn’t it just ducky that I happened to be introduced to at least one person that I may end up feeling comfortable enough with to ask questions about his homeland and religion so I actually understand a truth instead of what is fed to me through popular media and other people’s fears?

Now I really have to go, because all of which I write is not beginning to make sense. Yeah, that was a grammatical sentence–lol–proves my point! Time to rest indeed!

Shanksville photos taken by Lori Marie Ferguson on August 16, 2007

I hope you enjoy these, for I spent hours tonight editing the 140 pictures I took that day. I had turned on the computer to write and got distracted by the visual instead. Maybe the advice that I should focus on screenplays is valid, for it seems as if I do like to tell my stories with a visual component involved!