Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11

Hello my friends,
On this 10th anniversary of the attack on our great nation, I thought I'd join in with everyone else and share with you where I was 10 years ago today.

I was getting ready for work with the tv on in the background as I rushed around my apartment in Syracuse. I walked by as one of the morning shows mentioned the first plane hitting the tower and there was only speculation that it was a tragic accident. I got into my car and drove to work, listening to the radio but not much information was being given.
I was working at the time as a relay operator for the deaf. We were not allowed to have radios or televisions on the floor so throughout our day, we got our information from gossip as people came in for their shift or break. It wasn't until much later in the morning that I heard about the 2nd plane. By that time, the buildings started coming down. Our main radio towers were on top of towers so once they collapsed, our phone systems went out. We had hundreds of people calling in trying to make phone calls to their loved ones but we couldn't complete the phone calls. As the day went on, we broke 'protocol' (where we were not allowed to cross the line of the Operator role and address the people on the phones) and we had to break the news to many deaf people of what was going on in NYC. I was called a liar several times that day and accused of playing pranks. Then I started getting frantic phone calls. I had grown men crying on the phone to me, begging me to help put the call through to their wives whom they haven't spoke to since that morning and they don't know if they are okay or not. Our roles graduated from operator to counselor that day as we listened and tried to console the people on our phones. Many of us in the same situation as they.  We found ourselves dragging out phone calls longer than necessary or straining between pauses of conversation in order to hear TVs in the background just to get a little bit of information as close to first hand as possible.
Towards the end of my shift, we were able to connect some calls. Because there is a large concentration of deaf citizens in NYC, I was doing a lot of wellfare checks and eventually had the task of imparting many messages of sorrow and loss.

In the aftermath of September 11, I witnessed the vast spectrum of humanity. I had the honor of having heroes on my phone, hearing the experience of the day. I also had a woman call DSS and demand someone come clean her apartment immediately because of the dust in it resulting from the fires and collapses. She refused to clean it herself because it was 'not her fault'.

The effects of the day were long lasting at this job. Phone lines were effected for moths after. The experiences and memories of the phone calls, the heartache shared that day and several days following were so raw and cutting.  Admittedly, my memory is a sieve. But, like most, these are memories that I will never lose.

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