Another September 11 has come and gone, but our shock and grief lives on. Here’s a real-time look at how 9/11 felt to me…then and now.
Searching for directions since 9/11
By Andrea W. Doray
Tuesday, September 11, 2001: Driving to work, running late. Hearing the news reports breaking into the oldies rock radio station. Listening—breathless, heart pounding—as the description changes from a small plane hitting the Twin Towers to what’s really happening. Speeding up, driving too fast, dodging other dazed motorists. Parking my car frantically at the nearest entrance. Running up the stairs to my office and my coworkers. Scanning the shocked faces, hearing people on the telephone. Calling my own family. Decamping with my colleagues to the conference room. Gathering around the only television in the building. Exchanging sounds of bewilderment. Falling silent, attempting to absorb the events. Supporting those who go home to their families. Learning of AA Flight 77. Wallowing in disbelief. Working with HR to order pizza, lots of pizza, for the hundreds of employees in our organization. Learning of UA Flight 93. Staring, glazed over, at the television, disregarding my responsibilities. Driving home. Running to my neighbor’s door, too shocked, too numb, to cry.
Wednesday, September 12, 2001: Watching in horror, again and again. Learning the extent, the significance. Trying to reach friends, or friends of friends, or family of friends on the East coast. Imagining what it looked like to be there, what it smelled like, sounded like, felt like. Feeling fear, anger, confusion. Sleepwalking, in the daytime.
Thursday, September 13, 2001: Accepting the eerie silence in the skies. Cringing when only the military jets swoop overhead. Reading, watching, listening to the news. Scrutinizing the lists of the victims, the rescuers, the dead, the missing. Holding family close.
Tuesday, September 10, 2002: Finishing the last leg of a cycling trip through the Loire Valley. Being welcomed for the previous two weeks in French homes and chateaus. Accepting warm hospitality. Receiving a map and directions—in French—to our chambre d’hôte when we were lost. Appreciating the gratitude of the people in France for American forces during World War II.
Wednesday, September 11, 2002: Arriving by train in Paris. Dragging my luggage and cycling gear down the sidewalks from the station. Pausing at newsstands where New York is burning on all the front pages. Buying papers and magazines printed in French to take home. Taking photos of smoking buildings on posters in the shops. Stepping in to Notre Dame at noon. Seeing the signs in French: Nous nous souvenons et nous prions! Messes pour les victimes des attentats et pour la paix! Reading the signs in English: Special services in memory of 9/11/2001 – we pray for peace. Stopping at the banks of candles flickering in the shadows. Seeing it propped behind the warm glow against the cold stone blocks of the cathedral walls. Recognizing the red, white, blue. Photographing the miniature American flag stapled to a slim stick. Praying for peace.
September 11, 2013: Imagining what it looked like to be there, what it smelled like, sounded like, felt like. Feeling fear, anger, confusion, and profound sadness. Displaying miniature American flags stapled to a stick in flowerpots on my porch. Holding family close. Searching for a map and directions—in any language. Praying for peace.
Searching for directions since 9/11 was previously published in Alchemy, and reprinted here with permission.
About Andrea Doray
Andrea Doray is an author who serves on the board of directors for the international organization Writing for Peace. Learn more about her work here.
Congratulations To Our New Young Advisers
Writing for Peace is pleased to introduce two remarkable young peace activists, the founding members of our new panel of Young Advisers. Both have shown an extraordinary commitment to peace. Check their pages and watch our blog for their inspirational posts.
Natan Blanc is an Israeli who refused to serve in the IDF (Israeli army) “because of its actions against the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.” Natan held fast to his convictions, despite being jailed ten times.
Lyla June Johnston is a Navajo poet and peace activist from Taos, New Mexico, who has found her home in the service of humanity.
Writing for Peace is accepting nominations of young activists, writers, and artists, for our new panel of Young Advisers. Please send nominations by email, along with the reasons for your nomination and contact information to email@example.com, subject heading: Young Adviser Nominations.
2014 Young Writers Contest
The Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Submission guidelines here.
Writing for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.
Support Writing for Peace
Help us reach out to schools and young writers by purchasing a copy of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts to gift to your local high school or junior high. Let us know you are gifting your copy, and we’ll include extra bookmarks (beautifully designed by artist-in-residence, PdLietz). Purchase our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.
Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.