I traveled to the the United States Aquatics Sports convention, from Alaska, on 9/10/01. The convention was in Detroit, and I was one of 4 Alaska Swimming delegates going to the meeting that year. I was traveling alone, something that, at that point in my life, I had not done much of. I was less than a year out my first marriage, and I was looking forward to spending some time with a close friend, in Chicago, after the convention. As it turned out, I was the only Alaskan delegate to attend the convention that fall.
I was alone.I got up that morning, left the hotel, and went for a jog before heading to the first meeting of the day. I finished my run, hit the shower, and was sitting on the bed watching CNN when I learned that the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. There was much confusion and debate over what kind of plane had struck the building and why.
The CNN anchor, Aaron Brown, was sitting on a building with the smoking building in the background. I remember thinking things like "it must have been a little Cessna or some other small plane", "How could a pilot hit a building that big?", "He must have had a heart attack or something". That was when I watched the 2nd plance strike.
I was scared.I have a coping mechanism that I have developed at some point over my childhood. I am somehow able to slow things down when things get hectic. I manage to stay calm in the face of a threat. I don't let fear prevent me from moving or carrying on. It has served me well on countless occasions. I got up from the hotel bed, got dressed and went down to the Senior Development Committee meeting. I remember thinking that it was ridiculous to be holding a meeting about something as trivial as swimming when something so horrible was happening. I then sat down in the peanut gallery and listened as the committee discussed their agenda. In short I deflected my fear.
When the meeting was finished I went back to my room and turned on the TV. I watched footage of the towers collapsing. There was so much confusion about what was happening. It was overwhelming. It was still so early in Alaska, that there was really nobody for me to call. I went for another run.
Aftern the run I learned of the plane strike on the Pentagon. I knew we were under attack. I learned of the FAA grounding all of the planes....and then I only remember bits and pieces of the rest of the convention and the rest of my trip.
- I remember getting two phone calls. One from a friend, and one from ex-wife, each making sure I was ok.
- I remember calling my parents to let them know I was ok.
- I remember red, white, and blue ribbons being given out to everyone by the hotel staff.
- I remember, two or three days after 9/11, a ceremony being held outside the hotel, in honor of the victims of the plane attacks. I remember singing the national anthem during that ceremony, and I remember looking up during the anthem and seeing a comercial flight going overhead. I remember fighting back tears at that moment.
- I remember attending the general meeting and listening to the list of USA Swimming members who had passed since the last convention. I remember collecting one of the flowers that represented those who had passed...so that I could give it to my friend...his father was one of those who had died since the last convention.
- I remember picking up my rental car and driving to Chicago. I remember making it to my friend's house and being relieved that I was finally with someone who knew me and cared about me.
- I remember driving back to Detroit for my flight and thinking "Let someone just try to take down this jet." I'll rip that person to shreds with my bare hands. I remember checking in and walking through an empty airport.
- An then I remember being home.
On the eve of the 10th anniversary, I find myself pretty emotional. I think part of it is sadness. Sadness for those that were lost during the 9/11 attacks. Even more sadness for those that lost loved ones during those attacks.
I have a bit of dread as I prepare for the convention. It will be my first convention since 2001. There are a lot of issues that I plan on studying and discussing while at the convention. Important issues, and I am not a politician. I will have to be like one if I want to see any changes.
I think that thoughts of going to convention have dredged up emotions about 9/11. Maybe that is why I have been losing it over the last couple of days. Having said all this, I am hopeful. Hopeful for my future, and the future of my family. Hopeful for the future of USA Swimming. Hopeful for our country.
Hope is stronger than loneliness. Hope is stronger than fear. Hope is stronger than dread.