Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11th, ten years later

I'm sure everyone knows and remembers where they were when 9/11 happened. Here's my story, I've shared it once before on this blog but with it being the 10th anniversary and all. It feels right to write this again.

As you know Branden will be 10 years old this year he was born the year 9/11 happened. Here's our story.

For the whole year prior to 9/11 my grandma's health had been slowly failing. Noboru and I were living in Honolulu Hawaii at the time. I was expecting our first child. Had toured the hospital and had received all of my prenatal care, all 8 months up until that point of care at the Moana Lua Kaiser facility there. We even had planned and routed 2 ways to get ourselves to the hospital, in case of traffic. We were set. And on the last week of August, my grandma had been feeling worse and worse and it looked like she wouldn't be with us much longer. So, I made the huge decision to fly to Denver (back "home") to spend some very special time with my gran. Her and I had this special bond. We'd talk every single, yes literally every single day. I know you can't fly being 9 month's pregnant and I wasn't yet, but I also knew this would be more then likely my last chance to see her alive and it was. I was to fly back to Hawaii mid September and prepare for the birth of baby B on October 26th (yes he was born his actual due date)

Denver is about 2 hours (timewise) behind New York. So it was about 6:40-6:45 am where I was. It was semi dark morning-ish, the sun still not brightly shining in Denver, my dad was already gone and on his way to work already, he worked at Denver International Airport. The phone rings and I walk to the phone and answer it. It's Noboru. He sounds very serious, I can hear it in his voice. "Turn on your television!!! The United States was just bombed, they flew a plane right into the WTC." I grabbed for the remote didn't matter which channel, it was on every single channel, all the same horrific thing. And it was live. So much smoke coming out of the tower. The 2nd plane didn't hit yet. We just stood there on the phone in total shock and horror. About 3 minutes later I hung up. They knew a few planes were hijacked, trying to find out which ones and where. Airports were all on high alert. Would my dad be bombed, he worked at DIA afterall. My dad got to work at 7:15am, needless to say between 6:45am and 7:15am.... I called about 100 times from when I woke up until he actually answered it. He had heard already, was in shock and we spoke briefly. He was coming home, straight away and the airport was closing. Would feel much safer once dad is actually home and I could see him with my own eyes.

All of the airports for safety reasons immediately closed down. No flights in the US and no flights out! We saw on TV people stranded from all over. It was just absolutely surreal. So many questions, what..why...how? On the television, the coverage showed huge dust clouds when the towers finally collapsed, people jumping from the building, people down below running away, the coverage playing again and again. By that time our phones ringing off the hook from family, friends. Even my Mother in law phoned. By that time the plane had flown into the Pentagon. It was just an absolutely horrible day. The collapse showed again and again.

Colorado being sort of a target because:
We have the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood. The 670 acre property is the largest concentration of federal agencies outside of Washington D.C. There is also a nuclear reactor on that site.

We also have Cheyenne Mountain.

NORAD and USNORTHCOM headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado.The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)

Mile High City's skyscrapers are also vulnerable targets. We were worried. if they want to blow up a target, Colorado could be on their sites. For a few of the reasons listed above.

Noises and sounds. For those of us actually living in the US at the time, might recall. In Denver, fighter jets patrolled the skies protecting us. You could hear them loudly all day and night the first day and make sweeps that week. It was loud though but necessary. I remember talking to my next door neighbor Julie about what happened in NYC in our front lawns, we were so saddened and the jets flew overhead. And we both looked up at the sky.

Also, because of the "all flights" stopped thing. A huge problem rose for me. How would I get myself back home to Honolulu? My Ob/gyn is there, my husband's there. Our condo is there. All our baby stuff is there. Car seat, first pack of diapers, first "come home" outfit was there. Seriously as a first time soon to be mom, I needed to be back in Honolulu as soon as possible. Seriously.

Noboru being well...Noboru. Called every airline, and called me and said, he found 1 flight that would leave in 3 days and they might suspend it afterwards even, but if I had any hope at all.... I had to be on that flight. I agreed. So, I made sure I was all packed up. At Denver International Airport, I waited at the gate. Being at the gate....omg! So absolutely surreal. I've flown a lot in my lifetime, but this was the most unusual and saddest flight I've ever taken.

There were about 6 of us boarding the plane from Denver to San Francisco. The flight was totally silent. The flight attendants totally silent. Us passengers totally silent. Would somebody take this plane too? Honestly you had to wonder. The immediate aftermath of what happened, every one was on absolute pins and needles.

I landed in San Francisco, the once bustling airport a total ghost town. I waited at my next gate, a whopping what...5 people on a plane to Honolulu. Unbelievable. No happy tourists, no people wearing leis and sun hats and sunglasses. Just quiet people in shock boarded this flight. Again the 6-7 hour flight was just absolute silence. They told us...sit wherever you want. I sat in economy and just looked out the window during take off and thought....what's happening here? My grandma might die. The whole country is all shook up and rightfully so. The thoughts of me giving labor terrified me to my inner core. I just sat with my thoughts during the flight. Flipping through the stupid magazine in front of me...not really "reading" it, but just flipping through it. I must have flipped through that magazine 30 times.

Once we landed, I must confess I was so relieved. Happy to be away from the mainland. I was afraid being there in the aftermath. And that's sad to admit since I am from the mainland and I love it there. But, I was just relieved to be back in Honolulu. Noboru met me at the airport. And we went home.

The other guys from Japan living at the same condo place as us, not same apartment but neighbors and stuff. They were also sent there from the airline too. They came out and asked me, how was the mainland? How was the flight? I told them all what I had encountered with great sadness. They told me, you should see Waikiki. It's totally dead. later that day we went to lunch there at our favorite ramen shop and sure enough Waikiki, the once bustling tourist attraction was a quiet ghost town. It was so surreal. Many flight were still cancelled and most airports weren't even running at like 5% of what they were used to. Amazing that I could get back to Honolulu. And from the mainland US, Truly amazing, I made it back.

I think those first few weeks afterwards, the country was still in shock trying to figure out who the men were. Just sort of make some sense from this senseless act. First week of October, I got another phone call. It was my dad. "Your grandma passed away, Gina I'm so sorry" I am now in absolute tears. And I usually don't cry for anything. I'm in absolute tears. My dad's who cries even less then me, is in absolute tears. We talk, it is now obvious I can't fly back to Denver. One of the most important persons in my whole entire life and I can't fly back to attend her funeral. I am now 9 month's pregnant and should not be flying anyway. And with the flights still being a bit iffy/dodgy. I can't leave.

In less then a 1 month time frame this all happened. Noboru was talking to his mother on the phone, she told him, she has so much stress it can't be good for the baby. She was right. I was so stressed out. Just numb.

From the first week of October, to October 26th, we went to the beach every other day, not to have fun, he took me....just so we could sit and feel the sand and watch the ocean come in and out. We'd bring a picnic with us. Or even Mc D's. Or a Hawaiian plate lunch. I needed that 3 weeks to just start to feel like me again. The news showed, families putting up posters looking for lost/missing loved ones. The whole country was hurting, in pain, mourning. And so were we. I am still not over the death of my grandmother, not even now. Same as I'll not ever be over what happened September 11th.

When my son was born. I thought, this is a time for a new. A time for a rebirth. And for happiness. In November I flew back to Denver for a few weeks. And my dad and I needed that. he had just lost his mother. I had just lost my gran. And Branden gave us that focus. To put all of our energy and *hope* into that tiny little baby. And all the love we had to give.

You know...I have seen all week, this week, the stories for and about 9/11, the 10 years later stories. The women heroes. The families and victims of 9/11. What I wanted to say about this is.

America and Americans were greatly hurt by 9/11, we lost so much that day, we all did. But so many other nationals lost their lives that day too. I saw a story this week on CNN about families all over the world who were victims from 9/11. A Japanese national, and her husband and their small son. Her husband also a Japanese national was in one of the towers. She lost her loving husband that day. Her son lost his father that day. They moved back to Japan. And they have an alter for him. And she spoke and she cried. How 9/11 took her husband. Her son, now even way older then Branden spoke and he said he doesn't really remember his dad anymore. A Japanese family split apart, changed forever by 9/11.

A British woman, who worked in the towers. She was one of a few from her office that survived. She gave her story and she made a book or something of her coworkers and she cried a lot during the interview this week. She cried, has deep sorrow and pain, and you know watching her story this week made me incredibly sad, actually hearing her being there, what she went through, unbelievable. Now she is back in the UK, but her life forever changed by 9/11. The whole world was hurt by this. I enjoyed seeing a more detailed human side from that hour long show this week. But I will never forget that Japanese lady and son. Not ever! That story made me cry this week. Not sure why, it just struck a chord with me. She lost her husband, her best friend. I can't even fanthom losing my husband like that and raising our two son's alone. The simple thing of me putting myself in her shoes. I feel a hole inside just thinking of her pain and what she is going to go through for the rest of her life. She lost her life mate. Her soul mate that day. Honestly.

All of the NYC police men, the firemen. Just everyone. Amazing.

There's just an endless amount of stories, not one story or family more important then the next. So much lost that day.

The words that struck me the most in the aftermath all those years ago were. "Today we are all Americans" Somehow that was so comforting to me. I think because all countries knew how much we were hurting and also like I said, many other nationals were also victims. We all felt this pain and we all grieved this together.

During these past 10 years, the Discovery channel has showed reenactments from flight 93, the flight who fought back. Flight, 77, etc. They share the actual phone calls made during the time. One person called using the phones at the seats leaving a message to his wife. One of the flights, they knew they would die so they fought and they tried. I didn't realize how many people actually called their loved ones from the planes before seeing these shows/programs on the Discovery channel. All wanting to just say...good bye...and...I love you.

This week, I heard of a Subway/train conductor who was supposed to take off and close the doors after 1 minute yet he stood underneath 9/11 at the station for 10 minutes because he wanted to wait for whoever wanted to escape and evacuate so he stood there in his train. He's so affected that even today he's taken disability and is no longer working there poor man. Or this other man I saw yesterday morning on CNN....who was the guy who sends the messages to the pilots. He sent the message to all other planes...lock your doors. And then they said, 5 minutes later that one plane was taken hostage. he has such grief, he said he wishes he could turn back time and write key words like...hostage, terrorists. He wishes he would have a another chance and write/type something other then what he did. He shouldn't feel guilt, he should not.... but he does and he retired early and now spends his days haunted by 9/11.

So, all in all. I have no words of wisdom. No happy bow tie ending to this post. I just wanted to share our personal story of where we were during 9/11. And I also wanted to say...no matter what country you originate from or nationality you are, today we are all grieving. Grieving together.

I have my American flag hanging outside our home today. Though it was not 9/11 in the US this morning when I hung it. And I've also waited until it turned September 11th in the US to post this. And I will be hanging the flag all day tomorrow as well.

I'm closing comments to this post. Just doesn't seem like a comment is needed. You know...At Christmas time people can say Merry Christmas. Birthday's people can say happy birthday. Even the fourth of July people can say...happy 4th. What is there to be said for a day like today. You know what I mean. : (

Today my family and I are having a quiet day here at home. A day of keeping our family even closer then normal and a day of reflection and a little sorrow.

Flag poles should be half mast on a day like today, but I'm sure most Americans know that flag poles like the one I have, which is a very common one that we bought in the US. They don't really go half mast (the way the up and down metal flag poles do). The flags themselves are held up in the inside so they don't droop. But I did want to hang mine to show solidarity, unity, support and great love to my country and to show great respect to the ones who lost family members on this very sad day. Many families hang these outside their homes in the US on days like this. And we just "know" the flags can't go half mast. But we smile and say...at least they brought it out! That's the important thing. And so that is what I do every year. I saw the grandma next door and her daughter saw mine hanging today. I knew they knew why. No words necessary. We're all grieving this year. March 11th. Or the 10th anniversary of September 11th.