Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11, 2001

Like many people, I remember where I was and what I was doing the morning of September 11, 2001. I was working the morning shift, 8 am - 10 am, at the reference desk. A student walked by and asked if I had heard a "small plane" hit one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. I was helping someone use the catalog and shook my head. At my negative reply, he headed off to see what he could find and said he would let me know.

A few minutes later one of the reference staff came out to the desk and asked me the same question. I said no, but mentioned a student had just asked that very question. We decided to check for any information. It was still early, before 9 am, but CNN had a picture of one tower with damage and was trying to confirm what had happened. Word began to trickle in from patrons listening to the radio and watching television. Horror began to build as the depth and breadth of the tragedy grew. We persisted with, but their server was quickly overwhelmed. There was a television in the resource center, but without cable there was nothing but "snow." Students continued to arrive in the library and resource center with question, comments, concerns, and bits and pieces of information. We tried local TV affiliate web sites with a bit more luck and a lot more trepidation.

It was early in the term and the beginning of term convocation was scheduled at 11 am in the campus chapel. Several library staff members decided to attend and afterwards, a clearer picture began to emerge. Returning from the service, I stopped in the technical services office and was asked how close Shanksville, PA was to the Pittsburgh area, they had heard reports it was near the airport. I remember saying, no, not the airport, more east of the city towards the Laurel Mountains and Johnstown. We checked for it's location and were shocked by the plane going down in the field. I went back upstairs and tried to answer more questions from students and faculty in the library.

By lunch time we were getting as much, if not more, information from people coming into the library than we could find online. The six degrees of separation were well into play at this time as people related they knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone else dealing with the attacks. And by now, we were sure they were attacks. My someone was a friend and former co-worker who had a daughter, an "old" high school classmate of mine, working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. I emailed that library hoping for good news (I found out later she was fine).

I saw the picture on this post on Great some time ago. The American flag and the Towers standing tall, much as they did that morning, spoke to me. I had actually planned to use only the picture on this post as a tribute. But after watching services and listening to other remembrances on the news this morning, the day once again became a picture in my mind and I was compelled to share. I have vcr tapes of coverage that day that have never been viewed. I feel a duty, almost honor bound, to keep them as a testimony.

I can honestly say little or no library work was done on September 11, 2001. But a sense of community took over as we all talked and cried together, trying to understand. As the weeks turned into months, and the months now years, we are still trying to understand.

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