It’s hard to believe that 10 years have already passed since the attacks on America on 9/11. I thought today would be a good time to publish something I put into writing about a week after 9/11.
At the urging of Peggy Noonan I’m recording the events of 9/11/01 as they unfolded from my perspective.
Kathy and I happened to be in Grand Teton National Park the day of September 11th. It was the beginning of the second week of our two-week vacation, and we were staying at the Buckrail Lodge in Jackson, Wyoming, a place made semi-famous when it was selected as one of the settings for the Clint Eastwood movie, Any Which Way You Can.
We woke up on the morning of 9/11 around 8:30 Mountain Time, expecting to hike the Rendezvous Mountain Trail to Marion Lake. While Kathy was in the bathroom I turned on the Weather Channel to check on the latest forecast, just as we did every other morning. At the bottom of the screen I noticed they were running a crawl stating that all of the airports around the country had been closed. Obviously this raised several questions, so I immediately switched the channel to one of the news outlets to see what was going on. To my complete shock and horror I found out that airplanes had hit both World Trade Center buildings, as well as the Pentagon.
Ironically, the night before, we had just watched a true story movie about a woman in Northern Ireland who stood-up to the Irish Republican Army and the madness of terrorism that was ravaging her country.
As we watched the smoke billow from the towers that morning, we debated on whether or not we should proceed with our original plans. Ultimately we decided there was nothing we could accomplish by watching the TV all day, and decided to go ahead with our hiking plans. It appeared there was still a lot of conjecture about what exactly was going on, and who did what. We thought it might be better to wait until that night to tune-in after more of the facts had unfolded.
Just before leaving we watched the first tower collapse. We both assumed that what we saw was only the top third of the building collapsing – above the point where the plane had struck the tower. It wasn’t until we returned from our hike that we realized the entire building had collapsed. We also found out that the second building had collapsed shortly thereafter as well.
Walking out to our car that morning we noticed that the motel parking lot was completely full, meaning everybody was still in their rooms watching the coverage. On previous mornings, prior to 9/11, it seemed we were always the last guests out of our rooms.
To get to the Rendezvous Mountain trailhead we had to ride the Teton Village Ariel Tram to the top of the mountain. I guess in a state of a little bit of paranoia, there was a slight bit of concern on my part that the tram could be a terrorist target as well. It was a little unnerving thinking that the tram could be blown out of the sky while being transported up the mountain. Looking back now, it seems pretty silly.
Neither of us regrets doing the hike, but there was quite a pall on the entire day. At times we were both depressed, while at others we felt complete rage and wanted to vent revenge on the enemy ourselves. Although there was no proof at that point, we knew deep down that Muslim terrorist were responsible for this atrocity. Before our hike began there were a lot of rumors swirling around such as a fourth plane being shot out of the sky by our military, or President Bush being a target while on Air Force One, or there being a couple of other planes unaccounted for while still in the air. We wondered what was going on up in New York, and spent a great deal of time speculating what was going to happen down the road. We were definitely starved for information while out on the trail. We only ran into four couples on our hike. The first being from England, and they were just returning from a backpacking trip, so they didn’t even know what had happened. The other three couples couldn’t tell us anything new. If anything, we knew this would be an event that would change America forever.
In the September 10th addition of USA Today there was a blurb about the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud in Afghanistan the day before. I thought I recognized the name, but wasn’t sure if this was the same person I recently read about in National Geographic Adventure Magazine. I tore the article out of the paper to take home with me so that I could check the magazine to see if this was indeed the same person. The article was still lying on the bed the afternoon we returned from our hike. I noticed it and wondered whether or not the two events were related.
The last couple nights of our trip were spent glued to the television, absorbing all the information that was being put out. The events of 9/11 ended up putting a major damper on what may have been the greatest vacation either of us had ever taken.