Thursday, September 11, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Remembering September 11, 2001

Mikelle interviewed her dad and I last night about our memories and how we experienced the pivotal date of 9/11/01. Her history teacher was very specific to make sure the students interviewed someone who remembers the events of that date, because to quote him:

“All of you were still pooping your pants when that happened.” 

And he's right. Mikelle was 13 months old when 9/11 occurred.

I am embarrassed that I never really gave 9/11 its recognition in this forum. There's been 6 times that date has rolled around since I started this blog. Perhaps I didn’t want to be a downer. Or I knew such a post would be quite the undertaking and I put it off.

I had written the account in other capacities. When I was teaching high school, I made sure that day was part of the daily bell-work or sketchbook assignments, and I did talk about that day with various classroom audiences.

However, I never officially wrote it down to have recorded here for the purpose of family history.  

August 2001 - Mikelle's first birthday
Well, it’s time to write my account of how our family experienced that day.

It is kind of weird to describe, because yes, Chris and I had been married almost 7 years, but we wouldn’t see each other for at least a week or so after 9/11. We hadn’t seen each other in the days preceding it either. 

What happened was, Chris lost his job about a month earlier.

Mikelle turned a year old and then to celebrate that, Chris lost his job. Yay! 

It had been the third job loss since she was born. Therefore, until he could find another job (and thank goodness we didn’t know it at the time, but he wouldn’t get another one until Spring 2003…but I digress…that’s another bag of ferile rabid cats) by the time 9/11 rolled around, he was in a paid medical study in Phoenix. To qualify for the study and receive the nice $tipend at the end, he and the other participants had to live at the facility for a couple of weeks and have frequent blood draws and eat the same food. No visitors were allowed. Therefore, even though he was only about 35 miles away, it was the same as if he was far away out of town.

I was a full time student at ASU. Therefore, my student loans were also a way we had some funds coming in. We lived in student housing, but it was in Southeast Mesa (the ASU East campus) near Queen Creek. I would take the 30 mile drive to Tempe for school at least 4 times a week.

On 9/11, due to being three hours behind the east coast, I was still asleep when the attacks occurred.

However, Chris had been up. He had taken a shower and was drying his hair with a towel and coming into the little lounge area where a big TV was set up at the facility. He saw smoke coming out of the first twin tower. There was only a couple other people sitting there watching the coverage and he joined them. He recalled to Mikelle tonight how he was in absolute shock as they saw the second plane hit – right there on live TV.

Meanwhile, I was oblivious. I turned the Disney Channel on for Mikelle as I got ready for school. The Disney Channel wasn’t pre-empted or interrupted for any of the tragic events that were unfolding. Mikelle watched Bear in the Big Blue House and then she and I went outside to leave. I put her in the carseat in the truck (and 13 years later, we still have that truck!). I would be taking her to Chris’s sister’s house in Gilbert and then head to class. Maybe it was between 8am and 9am? I can’t remember.

I started the truck and was met with instant confusing chatter from the radio. No typical stations had their usual music, commercials or DJ banter. It was just all chaotic chatter. I had no context of what was going on. I heard key words that were alarming such as America Attacked, terrorism, more attacks eminent, planes used as bombs, plane crashes, etc etc. 

I decided to call Chris. Back then, cell phones were actually phones. You pick it up, dial, and someone answers! I know, weird! Whereas now, it’s so confusing when all you want to do is make a damn phone call! But I digress…..  

Chris answered and I asked him if he knew what was going on. He filled me in.  (Later he said he didn't call me when he saw it all unfold on TV because he was in complete shock...)

He and I didn’t talk for too long because when I was stopped for a train only about a mile away, the radio talked about the collapse of the twin towers. That seemed so outrageous to me. I was thinking, “no way did both those towers collapse….that’s crazy….   

Of course, I was wrong. So much of what I, and I'm sure millions of other people thought couldn't be possible was forever changed that day into a sobering reality.

At this point, I had only heard about what happened. I had not seen any footage yet. I did call the office of the Art building and asked if classes were canceled. I was told it would be up to the teacher. I decided to keep heading to Tempe, as I wasn’t really sure what to do. Therefore, I just stuck to my usual schedule.

When I arrived at my first class, 20th Century Art, only about half of the class was there. Our professor was there, but she was looking very somber. We knew she was from New York, and I couldn’t imagine what she was feeling on that level from having lived in that city. She said something to the effect of, “for those of you that came, I’m just putting on this video about Picasso….” And that was it for that class. No lecture. No notes. It made complete sense.

After that class, I ventured to the Student Union (Memorial Union) and that is where I finally saw footage. There was a TV set up in one of the sitting areas, and it was so quiet as people -  students, teachers, staff, old, young, etc, just sat around the TV in silence as the footage was replayed and we watched the coverage.  As we sat there just staring at the TV, someone taped a piece of paper below the screen that said “counseling available upstairs” and it gave the room number. 

I also remember that some of the coverage didn't really care about typical FCC rules when it came to language. In one of the clips that was showing the second plane hitting, you could hear someone exclaim, "holy shit...!" Aaron Brown, the reporter back at the studio somberly commented, "I think we can all agree with that...."

I could have stayed for the next class, but I didn’t want to. I didn’t feel unsafe, but I just wanted to be with my family.  I knew I couldn’t be with Chris, but I still wanted to be with my daughter.

The thing was, my class that was scheduled next was one where the professor was clueless and would still expect us to show up. The class scheduled was an Art Education class, and there was only about 12-15 of us in the class.  All the Art Education classes were small like that.

Don’t get me started on this particular professor. Anyone who took even one course with that her (let alone the four or more that were required) knows the insanity of which I speak.

She was one of the professors that didn’t teach any of us a damn thing that would help us in our future careers in the art teaching world, but you had to suffer through the four or more of her courses in order to eventually be released from the torture.

Let’s just call her Dr. Outoftouch.

I still decided to just go pick up Mikelle anyway and head home.  As I left the Memorial Union to take the long walk to Lot 59 (located right by the Wells Fargo Arena), I passed one of my classmates that would also be in that afternoon class. Her name was Sarah. I don’t know why I remember her name, but I do.

I said I wasn’t going to be in class. 

Sarah said, “Are you sure Dr. Outoftouch would even have class? Wouldn’t it be canceled?”

I laughed and said something to the effect of, “Sarah, this campus itself could be attacked and she would still expect us to show up.”

And I left. Sarah did go to class, and when I saw her two days later, she said of the 12-15 people in the class, she and two others were the only ones who showed up. She told me that Dr. Outoftouch expressed major discontent that the majority of the class would use the “excuse” of what was going on back east in order to skip the class. The few students that were present were quite taken aback at Dr. Outoftouch’s lack of sensitivity to the seriousness of the situation.

Did I go home because it was an excuse to miss class? No. I saw the footage and I knew thousands of people had died. I knew people lost family members. I knew kids had lost one or both of their parents that day. Other than Pearl Harbor 60 years earlier, America had never been attacked on our soil.  I already couldn’t be with my husband. I wanted to at least see my daughter and hug her. That’s why I left. I didn’t drive over 30 miles from practically Queen Creek into Tempe just to ditch class.

Turns out, the few that were in class that day were so incensed by Dr. Outoftouch’s comments that they complained to the Dean! Therefore, when most of us were in class two days later, we were met with Dr. Outoftouch apologizing for the comments she made (even though most of us weren’t there initially to experience them). However, she still seemed confused as to why she had to apologize. She still didn’t get it.  It was as if she saw the events of 9/11 as a local New York or Washington DC event and didn’t understand why it was such a big deal. :face palm:

Anyway, back to the day itself.

As I headed into Gilbert to pick up Mikelle at Chris’s sister's house, a busy intersection (Gilbert and Baseline, for you locals) had numerous people standing at the corners and selling an extra afternoon edition of the Arizona Republic with the headline America Attacked.  

I scrambled for 50 cents and honked my horn and one of the guys came over to my window and handed me a paper. I did make a point to save that paper, along with the ASU paper the following day and the Sunday paper that weekend. I'd take a snapshot of them and add them here, but they're packed away and in storage.

One thing I remember that was very somber were how empty the skies were in the days and couple of weeks following 9/11. The flight path into Sky Harbor was easily seen out the window from two of my classes that semester. It was eerie to see no planes in the sky for awhile following that. A couple of days later we saw two planes, but that was when all the planes that had been grounded on 9/11 were permitted to travel to their original destinations. All other flights were still shut down.

Since Chris was kind of “incarcerated” due to the rules of the paid medical study, one thing that shocked him over a week later when he finally got out of his jail, was how different everything looked. He was amazed at how much red, white and blue had blanketed the roads, homes and businesses. American Flags were displayed everywhere. The “A” on Hayden Butte (otherwise known as “A” Mountain) that borders ASU Tempe to the north was even painted red, white and blue.
Hayden Butte "A" Mountain

I loved the patriotism and how people came together as a result of such a tragedy. I was saddened to see those high spirits dissipate so quickly.

On a personal level, three weeks later was met with additional heartbreak. Chris’s mother passed away on October 3rd.  She lived here, but her burial plot was in Utah. While Chris drove up to Utah with his Dad, Mikelle and I flew up. It was strange being on a flight so soon after 9/11 not long after flights were permitted again. Both the flight to Utah and back was only about half full.

On a positive note, at least the Diamondbacks won the World Series a few weeks later!
Diamondbacks 2001 Champs - with the better Teal and Purple Colors

That was one good thing that happened in 2001. 

Due to two deaths in the family that year (my grandma in February 2001 and then Chris’s Mom in October 2001), two job losses and 9/11, 2001 doesn’t sit well with me as being that great of a year to remember.

However, don’t get me wrong. Having Mikelle in our lives with those big blue eyes brightening up our tough days was truly a gift. And being that she was too young to really know the extent of the heartbreak and tragedy that was happening around her is a blessing in itself. I'm also grateful for the blessing to attend school full time and have the distraction of studies during that period too.

The pictures of her below being way too close to water and appearing unattended on rocks was taken around the end of September 2001. Chris was there and he staged it that way just to freak me out. He and his Dad planned a camping trip with some other nieces/nephews/grand-kids and I didn’t want Chris to take her camping. Why? Typical Mom worries. I wouldn’t be there to make sure she would be alright. I couldn’t go with them due to my Saturday Art Workshop commitments required for school that semester. 

Therefore, knowing I was already worried, he purposely took these pictures. Yeah, thanks, babe. And this was back before we had a digital camera. Therefore, he left the pictures on there for me to discover when I developed the film. Kind of like our friend Bruce did when he took a picture of his bare butt at our Fourth of July party in 1999.  (Yes Bruce, I still have that picture...._*insert maniacal laugh*...)

And I've posted this picture before...the funeral for Chris's Mom...October 2001
Mikelle - Halloween 2001
Well, that's quite the somber Throwback Thursday! Next up is some humor that has to do with teenagers and the deluge the Phoenix area experienced this week.

Until Next Time...

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