20 years later, I still vividly remember sitting in my grade 11 English class as my teacher wheeled a TV in and turned on the news just as the second plane hit the tower. I grew up in a small Canadian town and at this point, I had never been to NYC. This attack seemed so far away from my teenage reality and yet the feeling of horror and anger I felt as we watched the coverage for the rest of class is something that has stayed with me.
The first time I went to New York City was in 2007. I was there on September 11th and remember heading down to a memorial service being held near where the Twin Towers had once stood and listening as they read the names of those who lost their lives on 9/11. The names seemed to go on forever as we stood there on that dreary, grey day.
Having seen the site where that act of terror occurred made it feel even more real to me that day, and becoming a flight attendant 5 years later gave the terrorists’ weapon of choice a much deeper meaning.
NYC has become one of my favourite places to visit and now every time my plane begins its descent towards the city, my thoughts wander to the passengers and crew on those planes that hit the towers. During our initial training, we covered what to do in the event of a hijacking, but I’m not sure anything could really prepare you for that. And yet, the flight attendants did all they could to protect those in their cabins.
I recently read/listened to the audiobook, The Only Plane In The Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garret M. Graff. I’ve read a number of books about different aspects of 9/11, but this book, based on the oral histories of over 500 people, was something unique. Through all the different interviews, it really gives you insight into what was happening around the United States that day, beginning with everyone’s commentary on how nice a day it was and how the sky was a beautiful clear blue. It continues on through the events of the day and the few days following as rescue efforts continued.
The book includes accounts from survivors who worked in the towers, firefighters, police, rescue workers, military, news reporters, government workers, eyewitnesses, etc., but the ones that hit me the hardest were the recordings from the cabin crew calling those on the ground to get the word out about what was happening on board, reporting who had been injured and what they were being told. The messages being left by passengers to their loved ones, saying that their plane had been hijacked and sending final messages of love to them also hit me hard.
It made me think about those I would want to call and relay messages to and the importance of telling your loved ones how you feel. The book is filled with stories of love and hope and the kindness of those dropping everything to help any way they could—the bright light on a day filled with so much terror and hate.
This post surfaces around this time each year and always brings tears to my eyes thinking about all the loss, but also about how we always have the choice to choose hope and love.