Monday, September 11, 2006

Mutt Ploughman on September 11, 2001

It is only by grace that I was not located very, very close to the World Trade Center five years ago today. I would not have been in the towers, and yet for more than 2 1/2 years I came through them every day on my commute into New York City. I worked directly across from the towers, separated by one street's width, from February 1999 until late August of 2001. As luck would have it, the company I worked for was in the process of moving to southern New Jersey, not far from Philadelphia, during that summer. I accepted a job in the new office, and moved from northern to southern New Jersey in early August. About a month later, I witnessed the attacks on television like everyone else, intead of from the ground level.

But the event remains as harrowing for me as it does for all of us, and one of the reasons is how well I knew the area in and around the towers, how often I had walked through and around them, how well I knew their powerful and impressive image up close. I feel like I knew those towers well. I used to walk in the courtyard area between them in good weather on my lunch break. And one date, while our romance was new and just beginning to flower, my future wife and I met underneath them to go on our second date. From the lunch room in my office on top of the Century 21 department store, which looked directly across at the rising steel and glass, I saw her from above, strolling near the famous circular fountain sculpture, waiting for me to come down to meet her. That's a memory I treasure today.

Because I knew the area and the buildings themselves so well, I just could not believe my eyes, like the rest of us, when I watched the south tower explode into flames on television, when I saw people jumping from them, and, in a hellish vision beyond anything I had ever seen anywhere, watched them collapse into massive clouds of dust and debris. I would have been one of the ones sprinting away from those clouds. I would have been covered in dust and ash. But it never happened.

I can imagine, although I wasn't there to see it, the chaos downtown. I always came up from the Trade Center around 7:45, not 8:45, so I almost certainly would have been in the office, getting started with my day. But to go outside and see them burning and people falling out from that close - that I cannot imagine. I am fairly sure I would have gone down to see after the first plane hit, and I think I probably would have witnessed the second plane's crashing into the tower. I can only thank God that I did not have to see that.

Since September 11 five years ago, I have consistently had disastrous dreams in which I was either in or near a building or an area that an airplane would crash into. That has consistently happened every 3 or 4 months since those attacks, for me. In addition, I can honestly say that I have never looked upon a jet in the sky again without some kind of thought about terrorism, wondering where it is headed and if it is going to crash into anything. I thought this would fade away over time but it really hasn't.

The men and women who died in and around those buildings, and in the Pentagon and on that terrifying flight in Pennsylvania, under such horrific circumstances, did absolutely nothing to deserve their fate. They were totally innocent and did not deserve to die on that day. It is hard to come to grips with why they did. Some of them, particularly the people trapped above where the planes hit, must have suffered immeasurably. It is frightening and dizzyingly horrible to consider what one might have done in their shoes, and some of the recently released 911 tapes that i have heard in the news demonstrate clearly that they were subject to pain, anguish and terror.

It frightens and troubles me that this happened in my lifetime, and I never thought I would ever see anything like that day. On top of that, it has led our nation into some troubling times, caught up in a war that drags on and on and seems to become a larger and larger wedge between us and much of the rest of the world. It is hard to say I feel any safer in the world at large than I did five years ago, and harder still to imagine the long-term consequences for the next generation, specifically my two innocent little daughters.

All I would like to say now is that my heart goes out to the families of the victims and especially to the victims themselves. Their suffering is long over, but the memory of what they had to endure lingers in me, and I hope and pray that God carried them all into his Kingdom where they can exist forever in a place where that suffering is forgotten and, like all the rest of the sins and shortcomings they may have taken along with them, fully accounted for. For the nearly 3,000 innocent Americans and foreign-born citizens who died five years ago, I remember you as our nation remembers you, and offers up our prayers for your souls.

1 comment:

Aura McKnightly said...

Mutt, thanks for sharing this...sincerely. I really had no idea just how close you were. You've given me a lot better understanding. Damn glad your company moved when it did then. 'Cause if I know you, you probably would have been under or near those buildings being curious and awestruck. Thank God that never happened. It's still an absolutely harrowing day burned in our brains. When they show the towers burning on news segments, it's still pretty impossible to believe that that really happened, but as we all know, happened it did. It's like the proverbial 'car wreck' but many times worse...you just can't take your eyes off it. But then you realize you need to, and then you do. My sense of that area came from our visit there in June of 2000. I remember standing under those buildings and the fountain square and you telling me MCC played there. Then, of course, we were to revisit in, I want to say early 2003, and saw the massive hole in the ground. Things have changed and they are still changing...but the healing has also begun. And, God forbid next time, but next time we will have a better understanding of what is going on and hopefully we can give a little more help as well when that time comes like the brave men and women of United 93 gave. I agree we don't seem in much safer times five years down the road, but as a nation, we have more knowledge, we are more enlightened and we are stronger for it. America will live on.