Remembering 9/11 – Twenty Years Later

I can hardly believe that today is the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. I remember that day all too well. At the time, I worked in finance at a bank with offices in Jersey City. I had to take the train from the World Trade Center every morning. On 9/11/2001 I was running really late so I didn’t dawdle. Usually, I’d make a bathroom stop, grab breakfast, maybe peruse magazines and generally kill time before heading off to a job I really didn’t like. Thank the Gods – and I do all the time – I didn’t do any of that on that particular day. I ran to catch the train in order to get to work on time. Mine was the last train out. The first plane hit as our train was leaving. Five minutes later, we pulled into Jersey City and came out of the station to see the smoke rising from the first tower.

I had maybe a block walk to my office and several co-workers were with me – we all took the same train. We noted the smoke but had no idea what it was. I remember we were puzzled but didn’t think much of it at first. It was only when we got into work and saw all the brokers gathered around the television sets (there were televisions mounted on the wall of the brokerage floor and also in human resources). I don’t remember if we watched the second plane crash into the World Trade Center on tv. I remember one of my bosses saying that there was a terrorist attack on the Center and on the Pentagon. My aunt worked at the Pentagon.

I’m an ancestor worker. I reached out to the dead and did not find her there, so I knew she was ok. Turns out, it was her office that got hit but she was coming back from having delivered a package. She saw the plane through the window and thought, “that’s way too low” and turned, trusting her gut, and ran out of the building. She was fine. A holy picture she kept at her desk was fine. The rest was rubble.

I tried to call my mother but could not get through. I did manage to call my best friend to let her know I was ok. My poor mom spent most of the day thinking her daughter and sister were dead. The phone lines had gone down or were so busy we could not get any calls out after the first half hour or so. I wasn’t able to speak to my mother until late that night.

Our office evacuated, fearing another, larger attack. We were told to go to an evac center by the pier. I had a member of my religious House who was legally blind working in the brokerage area. I retrieved her and we went together. Once there, I did my best to minister to those who were frightened, passing out water, offering on the spot counseling. I sat with an EMT who was shaking as she told me what ground zero looked like and saw her panic as airplanes (thankfully our military planes) suddenly flew overhead.

At some point, we decided to donate blood and went to the hospital, but they didn’t need more so my friend and I were left with no way to get home. A lovely Hindu family took us home with them and kept us safe until the trains were running again. We brought water and provisions to the local fire department and then this family, whose name I never learned, walked us to the train station and we went home. The next day, I came into the city to work at the Red Cross center (and this is why I will never support the Red Cross again). They refused to allow me (as a polytheist and priest) or a female episcopalian minister with 18 years’ experience, to work with any of the shocked, hurting people filing in for help. This was the case even though the head of the seminary I had attended was there and vouched for my competence as a chaplain. We were only allowed to pick up garbage. The Red Cross can go fuck itself. They only allowed a couple of Catholic priests and a Rabbi to actually do chaplaincy work. I did witness probably the best example of chaplaincy in action in a young priest who was tending those hurting. His humility and compassion were inspiring.

Later, I went to the hospital where I was one of the chaplains and our supervisors wouldn’t let us minister to patients until we sat in a circle and shared our own shock and horror. I remember one other chaplain, a woman sobbing as she recounted that she had been doing dishes when her five-year-old son called her to the tv. News channels broadcast the attack on the World Trade over and over again (to a degree that I actually find potentially traumatizing to viewers) and her child was watching images of people throwing themselves out of the burning Trade Center. He wanted to know why the people were falling out of the windows. At his mother’s honest answer, he hugged her and said, “Don’t worry, mommy, God will catch them.” That night, for the first time, the Gods hauled me out of my sleep, and I found myself guiding confused, agitated, angry souls across the divide from living to dead. I remember arguing with one woman that she had to cross over. She didn’t or couldn’t realize she was dead. It had all happened so fast, so unexpectedly.

For days we went to the Red Cross to help however we could. The city was a ghost town. People walked around but silently, in a stunned daze. When work started up again the next week, we brought in counselors to help everyone. I worked in HR at the time and one of my jobs was to sit in on the counseling sessions. I saw a Vietnam veteran break down in tears, sobbing that he was afraid his son would be called up into a war like the one he himself had fought. His fears were not without warrant and this man resigned shortly thereafter.

I now teach students who were born after 9/11 but for my generation, this is our defining moment. There is before 9/11 and after. The world that existed before is gone. We have inherited a country willing to sacrifice freedom for security. It’s a bad and dangerous trade off. We’ve inherited a country that has been at war for twenty years. I mourn for the dead. Most of all though, on this day, I remember not only those who died in the attacks: World Trade Center, Pentagon, Flight 93, but also their families; and I remember those who worked tirelessly to retrieve the bodies of the fallen. I remember particularly Father Mychal Judge, chaplain and member of the NY Fire Dept and first recorded victim because he ran toward the horror and not away. I remember the search dogs who suffered depression because they could not find survivors in the rubble. Let us remember all those who have died. Each and every name. They are our dead. Let us remember them.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.”

L. Binyon

About ganglerisgrove

Galina Krasskova has been a Heathen priest since 1995. She holds a Masters in Religious Studies (2009), a Masters in Medieval Studies (2019), has done extensive graduate work in Classics including teaching Latin, Roman History, and Greek and Roman Literature for the better part of a decade, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theology. She is the managing editor of Walking the Worlds journal and has written over thirty books on Heathenry and Polytheism including "A Modern Guide to Heathenry" and "He is Frenzy: Collected Writings about Odin." In addition to her religious work, she is an accomplished artist who has shown all over the world and she currently runs a prayer card project available at wyrdcuriosities.etsy.com.

Posted on September 11, 2021, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Very moving piece, Galina. Thank you for sharing it with us. ❤

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  2. I was sitting at my mechanic’s shop when it happened. I still remember the disbelief and horror on everyone’s faces.

    My best friend had just joined the military the year before (I didn’t know him back then, I met him ten years later at the base I was stationed at), and deployed immediately. He wound up going on four tours over there, and still won’t quite talk about everything. He’ll tell me about his horrific childhood before he’ll talk about his time in the military. There’s a big part of me that understands why.

    I’ve got a Jeep ride this morning, a memorial to 9/11. We will never forget.

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  3. I was five years old when this attack occurred. I actually don’t remember anything of this day. It’s crazy to think that this has just always been in my consciousness and I don’t remember a world before 9/11.

    I pray the dead have found peace

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  4. My late husband was in one of the laborers unions that were working on the clean-up of the 9/11 site (its a weird and awkward term, but that was the term the laborers used at the time when the pieces left from a demolition needed to be picked up and collected). He was in the second wave, the first having to have been poisoned by the fumes from the site. He said to me that the entire time he worked there, he didn’t find a single dead body – there were only pieces. They used a nearby church to feed the laborers who worked there, and one day I visited him. The church was covered in thank you notes painted with crayons by 1st graders, thanking the workers who diligently worked to clean out the rubble.

    I remember so many things from those months, how Bill Clinton, long retired from political life, was walking through the streets hugging people who were crying. I remember meeting people in the building across the street who needed a year of counseling because they saw a heavily pregnant women standing in front of the building until a piece of a building fell on her. I remember how in Brooklyn (I think it was Bensonhurst) some Muslim high schoolers were celebrating the 3,000 deaths that resulted from the terror attack – and how there were also Italian American kids in that same high school. Who had chains. Who made them stop celebrating fast. I remember how many people were thankfully late for work that day. And I remember how angry New York was. We didn’t just want Osama Bin Laden dead, we wanted him to be dropped off, alive, in the middle of Brooklyn for the night.

    The younger generations are asking on social media why we went to Afghanistan. Those who ask must have no conception as to what it was like to be in New York and see what was done. There will never be a time when I will forget it, or when I will forget that their way of life, and ethical values, are fundamentally different from ours, and what that can mean in practice. Thinking otherwise is foolishness.

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  5. The first part of the day for me is a sleep fog blur, because I was dead asleep when you called. (I’d only had like 2 hours sleep as I’d been up late working on a project).

    I don’t remember if I actually talked to you on the phone, or you talked to my roommate, and she woke me up to relay the message to me. What I do remember is the content of the message, of you being ok but evacuating.

    The roomie was heading out to class, and stressed I should probably get up and catch the news. I remember her pestering started to wake me up. I wasn’t truly awake until I made it into the living room, sat on the couch and saw the WTC burning. All I remembered at this point is you had mentioned in passing the WTC as part of your commute, and the news coverage was rattling off some of the major companies in the towers, and I heard your employer’s name. I couldn’t remember where your offices actually were. So I watched the towers fall on tv, and was in anguished worry for HOURS until you called me later that evening. I held onto the information you said you were evacuating.

    People forget cell phones were only slowly starting to become a thing (they weren’t smart, and basically could text or call, and didn’t have a great deal of other capability), facebook wasn’t around yet, and most of us still just called people on landlines, or sent emails. And most of us were still on dial up internet, and there was no streaming news coverage online.

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    • I think I talked to your roommate at the time and told her to pass the message on. I don’t think anyone in the office at that point had cell phones. they just weren’t all that common yet and yeah…dial up. omg. I hadn’t thought about that with cell phones. My husband remembers he was up all night messing around in chats online. his sibs woke him up, he staggered out into the living room to watch the footage. he had close friends in NY (I didn’t know him then) but he didn’t know where, if they were caught in the midst of it. He couldn’t call. the lines were locked up. he tried emailing but didn’t get a response so he just sat for hours, watching the news footage waiting to hear anything. it was terrifying for him, esp. when people started jumping from the buildings.

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      • I thought I talked to the roomie, and not you, but like I said, My consciousness hadn’t quite percolated up yet.

        I remember going into work. Only for my coworker to be frantic, his sister was flying to Pennsylvania that day, and until they released info about what flight it had been he was distraught cause he couldn’t reach her. The university decided to close the campus, But that didn’t stop my professor, she insisted we be in class that night. (I mean why should I be surprised, I had another professor that taught through funel clouds forming and touching down as tornados to dissipate all around us, while the sirens to seek shelter were going off on campus. The prof’s reasoning, we’re int he basement, so we’ll either live or die. If you hear a freight train, duck under the desk and cover your head. And then he went into the Battle of Hastings.

        A still image alone doesn’t get me, and short video doesn’t (especially the more carefully edited news footage), but when there’s like the sort of raw, unedited footage of that day and the chaos of people’s reactions, that will take me back to my knot of worry and anguish as I waited to hear from you.

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      • Sannion told me he had a girlfriend in New York that he was worried about too. That must have been awful

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