Friday, September 9, 2011

9/11 Ten Years Gone

The horror of September 11, 2001 came over me slowly. The first reports were from the rock station playing on the car radio. Thinking it was somebody’s bad joke I switched to an all-news AM station where the disaster was confirmed. The fragmented news reported a car bomb at the State Department and smoke behind the White House, perhaps the old Executive Office Building. The Interior Department sits between the two.  I became very concerned about my co-workers and friends at Main Interior.

I was on my way to Gallup to meet with the Navajo Regional Director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs on an archaeology contract with the Navajo Nation. Switching my private vehicle for a government car at the Southern Pueblos Agency at Indian School and Twelfth Street, I drove west on I-40. The news reports clarified that the smoke in D.C. was coming from the Pentagon. I realized then that this was not just a horrible New York disaster but an attack on the United States.

Nine Mile Hill was sunny as I crested into the valley of the Rio Puerco. I pulled off the Interstate where the “Grapes of Wrath” bridge is preserved as a monument to old Route 66. Finding a pay phone, I called on my government card to Gallup, then my office, then on my personal card to home. After a few rounds of calls it became clear that the meetings in Gallup were canceled for being utterly pointless under the circumstances and I was needed back in my office as supervisor because the government was going into emergency mode.

One of our attorneys had a portable 13-inch at the office and we watched the collapse of the two towers of the World Trade Center live and then over and over again.  My old buddy "Paul" had worked in the towers some years back. I did not know exactly where he worked now but I began to worry. I called and amazingly got through to his voice mail so I knew the electronic circuitry in his building, at least, was still intact. I left a concerned message for him at his home number as well but it was a few days before I spoke with him. The first news came as "Wes" and I discussed the situation through e-mail.  The Deseret News online edition reported that church members were safe and accounted for so that eased our minds.

A series of e-mails from our Secretary Norton and our own Solicitor’s Office in D.C. over the next few days raised awareness of government security concerns. The only thing we could figure to do was to start locking the front doors again early in the morning before all of us were in the office. Another of our attorneys was in D.C. staying out near the Pentagon and had a difficult time returning home, having to rent a car and drive with some others from our Pittsburg office there where she caught a plane.

The stress and strain on me had its effect. I was not harmed nor lost any loved ones as so many had in the country.  Yet it affected us all. . . . 

. . . .  That was written a few months after it all happened. We've been through a lot since. Recently, I read a commemorative piece that I found to be shockingly stark and honest. I don't always agree with Jeffry Goldberg, but this one struck home. That's the whole problem. The events of 9/11 struck home.

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