Osama, Closure

Photo taken by theqspeaks
This post is therapy for me. Twitter and the media have already done a fine job of reporting and I am intentionally 12 hours late. There’s no new information I can provide, nor do I wish to.

Last night was important. It was important for the world, the United States and me.

I remember 9/11, as so many other people also do. It was one of those key moments in history where everyone remembers where they were when they got the news that an airliner had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.

For me, it was a day like many others. I was living in Maryland at the time. I lived out in the country about 30 miles west of Baltimore. It was a small place that my new wife, at the time, and I had moved into after we had gotten married. We both worked at a government facility doing mundane contract work in a data center.

I remember that 30 minute drive into work that day around 7:30am. The sky was blue. Not a cloud in the sky. There was a definitive autumn crisp in the air that reminded me that summer was over and winter was on its way. I could smell the clean air with the faint smell of oak and cornfields. It was a beautiful day.

When I got into work that morning, after making small talk with the guys I worked with, I remember going through my daily routine. After firing up my computer and ensuring there was no pressing emails to attend to, I took a ten minute walk to the other side of the compound to a little deli. I grabbed some coffee (cream and sugar), a pre-packaged muffin and and orange juice and I sauntered my way back to the data center I worked in, stopping briefly along the way to jaw with colleagues I ran into en route.

When I got back to my cubicle, my coworkers Mark and Marty were not around. I didn’t think much of it. They had their morning routines as well.

But then a minute or two passed and Mark came rushing over in a frenzy. He said something quickly about a plane hitting the World Trade Center in NYC. I was confused. Must have been some errant propjob that got lost. I went to my computer and pulled up the Internet. Surely, CNN.com would have the story? Couldn’t reach it. MSNBC.com? Nope, can’t reach that either.

Is the Internet down? Nope, Amazon.com loaded fine. Hmmm. Well, let’s go next door to the command center, I suggested.

The command center was, as you might expect, a darkish room with televisions and monitors to allow contractors and employees to monitor every aspect of the mainframe system housed in the data center. They also had a consistent cable news feed so if there was news, it would be on there.

When Mark and I reached the command center, it was already overflowing with people who had also heard the news and had the same idea I had. By the time we arrived, only one plane had hit the towers. No one was really sure what the hell was happening, but no one was really thinking terrorism at the time. Just some unfortunate mishap in the worlds largest city.

Within minutes of being in the command center, I witnessed the second plane hit the towers. There was no mistaking this for anything less than a choreographed attack. Now people were pissed and you could sense it in the room.

Until the breaking news came in from CNN that the Pentagon had also been hit. The anger in the room immediately changed to fear. We were sitting in a government facility and “they” were attacking DC. Were all government facilities targets? What about schools? Are our kids safe?

People started rushing from the room, grabbing their jackets and belongings and fleeing the building. Many were not so much fleeing the building but going to immediately fetch their children from school. We had no idea what would happen next.

That day I wept like I never wept before. Hours of endless tears as the horrors were played over and over on television. Eight days later, I would be in New York City, another place I once called home. I would get as close as 4 blocks from Ground Zero and still smell the burning ammonia, debris and flesh. I remember it vividly right now as I describe it and my stomach is turning.

This is what Osama bin Laden did to me.

We were all affected in different ways. Many people were not immediately affected, but their lives would radically change in the 10 years that would follow as loved ones went off to war to fight an undefined enemy with an undefined location. Some of those loved ones, sadly, never returned.

Some people lost friends and family in the Towers, or the Pentagon or in Pennsylvania that day. They will never return. The finger print of a murderer who cost us much more than just 3000 lives in 2001.

We all mourned in our own way. We were allowed to. We were encouraged to. We had to cope in different ways just because we are all different people.

This morning I awoke to a world without Osama bin Laden. It doesn’t change the past. I mourned again last night as I relived that September day 10 years ago. I watched crowds spontaneously amass in Lafayette Park in Washington, and in New York at Ground Zero and Times Square. I watched Twitter people question the mode in which other Americans celebrated. I watched people frown at beach balls being tossed. At least in one place, the celebration was encouraged.

This is closure.

We all mourned in our own ways on September 11, 2001 and that was expected. We all now have an opportunity for closure and that process cannot be dictated. People are wounded and scarred. This news is a reminder of that day 10 years ago and, like me, many are now re-living it. However one gets the necessary closure at this time, let it be done and get out of peoples way.