A Day of Infamy Recalled

Although I’m not tuned into the calendar just now, when I sat down to check e-mail, I realized that today is the anniversary of that Day of Infamy. Memories flooded back, and they deserve blog space.

Around 9:25 on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, I was driving to a Computer Club meeting at our Senior Citizen Center when I heard something about a plane flying into one of the Towers. Is this a replay of some historic happening? I wondered, but I couldn't recall a time when a plane flew into the World Trade Center. Maybe it's like War of the Worlds, I thought, though it was a bit early in the day for such shenanigans, and I was listening to NPR. It sounded awfully real.

“And now we'll switch to (??) for live coverage from the World Trade Center ...” Feeling strangely unsettled, I switched the car off and went inside. When I saw the crowd glued to the television in the lounge, I knew. This was real! Gasping for breath, I dashed down the hall to our meeting room and found early arrivals abuzz. (I get goosebumps just remembering.) Throughout the meeting, tardy members arrived with updates. “Second tower...” then, “The Pentagon!” The fourth pretty much freaked us out as we realized it had flown right overhead toward its ultimate rural PA resting point, less than seventy miles away as a plane would fly. The meeting ended in record time, and nobody dawdled.

I spent the next two or three days with one eye on my laptop, the other on the television, and a phone glued to my ear. I could not stop watching!

Just this morning, I realized this constant link to the Internet must be my personal mode for dealing with disasters. The memory of constant net watching reminded me of the week in May 2000 when the Cerro Grande fire destroyed so much of the spectacular panorama of ponderosa and aspen covered slopes around Los Alamos. I grew up in Los Alamos, but that horrendous event got little more than a mention in Pittsburgh newscasts. We still had dial-up, and I tied up the phone line for two solid days tracking events in northern New Mexico.

For me, the gut-level impact of these two events was similar. The only element lacking in the Cerro Grande fire was deliberate intention on the parts of the individual who authorized the fire and those who carried out the orders, so it wasn't quite terrorism, and not as many people died, but the impact on me was similar. The results of the fire are even more permanent. The earth was scarred for centuries to come, and unlike an urban landscape, the mountains can't be rebuilt or resurfaced.

I went to Los Alamos four months later, shedding buckets of tears as I surveyed the devastation. I viewed Ground Zero four months later, feeling too stunned to weep at the sight of a church cemetery shrouded in protective coverings, and the "Wall of Remembrance" created on plywood construction barriers near the site.

Today I mourn for the earth, and the people who inhabit her. I can only pray that the wildfires of hatred will burn themselves out, taking with them all the discord and ugliness, so our collective descendants can grow up in a world of love, peace and plenty.

I have already written extensively about my thoughts and feelings about the events of September 11, 2001 as part of my written legacy. The writing helped me come to personal peace with these events. What about you? Perhaps the record of our collective words and thoughts can help future generations find their way through their own times of turmoil. Write about this, and about other disasters you've survived. Your record matters, to you and the future.

Write on,

Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal


Liz said...

Thank you, Sharon. I appreciate your words. I also grew up in Los Alamos--my family lost three homes... my mother her home of 50 years.

Every tragedy since then affects me in a much different way than pre-Cerro Grande. As difficult as it was for my family, I am sruck deeply by the much more enormous tragedy and atrocity of Katrina and POST Katrina.
Wishing you peace and all good,

Liz Rutherford

Liz said...

It just dawned on me who you "might be"... Elizabeth, Rick, Kevin, Sharon?

Ritergal said...


To protect the privacy of lots of people, I don't post my maiden name on the net, but I was in Joe's class, and I'm Robin's sister. Drop me a line at Ritergal@gmail.com and we can talk Los Alamos. I hope you will, because I have some ideas to discuss with LAHS alums before 2010.

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss in the Cerro Grande fire, and I share your grief over Katrina, though it didn't feel as personal for me.

I'm so glad you found your way to the blog. :-)