Posted by: Amanda | September 11, 2006

September 11

The anniversary is almost over.  I didn’t watch the president’s speech.  I didn’t read the rememberances that everyone seems to be getting off a website somewhere.

I do pray for the families of those who lost their lives. 

 I do believe we owe the first responders who sacrificed without thought for themselves to save others, to comfort others, to do what could be done, and now have given their health.  We can not play games about denying the affects of the air they breathed to save worry about the environment.  They deserve pensions, health care, anything they need to help make the rest of  their lives with as little pain as is possible at this point.  They gave.  We owe.

My own sacrifices are minimal.  I haven’t seen my husband in a week, as he is working long days in hours opposite mine.  He attempst to prevent terrorism on our rails despite apathy and competing interests within his own agency.

Five years ago,  I arrived at work in California to confusion and partial information, yet my reaction was – we are at war.  How could we not be – we had been attacked.  Working in a direct service government agency, my local office debated wether or not to open to the public, till word came that all non-essential employees in federal agencies were to go home.

I spent the days following trying to keep the images out of the eyes of my two year old. I heard story after story from my colleagues as the agency shared the sanitized stories among employees of those of our own within the agency who had been affected or lost, and then the stories of the employees who sat on the pier and took claims.  This week, the commissioner reissued some of those rememberences from employees – of the people they met, the losses they had suffered.

And I wept again.

It’s not the images of the tower falling that call to me.  Its not the names of those lost.  Its not the 911 calls as harrowing as they are.

For me,  9-11 is the benefit claims my agency took – the stories of grandparents filing for benefits for their little grandchildren trying to figure out how to comfort the loss the of the parents to the little ones while battling the grief of losing their own child.  Its the stories of people needing ID or wondering what to do when a loved one never made it home, but no one knows if they made it out of the building.  Because I have sat across the desk from people facing crippling illness, grieving recent lossess, wondering who will take care of their disabled children if and when they die.  Because I have asked my series of rote questions necessary to provide the desperately needed help and tried to come across as compassionate and empathetic, knowing that sometimes the easiest thing for the grieving person is to get this “officialness” over and sometimes it is to let them cry here in the anonymity of a government office instead of in front of people in their real life.  Because their faces will never leave my memory – it is the stories of my colleagues similar experiences with the victims of 911 that morph with the eyes of grief, fear and pain in my memories and attach themselves to this national tragedy.

It is also why I thank God for the job I have and the agency I work for.  For the opportunity to make a difference in my own small way.  Even though I don’t follow the news, I don’t light a candle or remember a name.  I don’t work on the other side of the desk anymore.  But even still, the faces are there – motivating me every day to not give up, that the part of the process I play now – still gets someone  who needs it some help a day faster, a month earlier, a little more easily.


  1. A,

    this is a beautiful and personal post, and I appreciate you writing it. I try to lay as low as I can on 9/11, but it still hurts me every time.


  2. Thanks for your rememberence.

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