Monday, September 11, 2006

11 September 2001 - Palestine, Texas, has been burned indelibly in my memory as the place where I was when I heard about the terrorists attacking the World Trade Center in NYC and the Pentagon in Washington DC. Skip and I resolved this morning to make the most of the few days we have allotted ourselves, to find what we can, with or without the help of the Library in Palestine, which has closed in sympathy for the victims of the tragedy. I feel torn and terribly distracted, wanting to watch this historical event unfold on TV and yet, not wanting to waste what precious few hours we have to dig into our family's history in these gentle hills of East Texas. The gentleness of these hills is deceptive, though; underneath the fertile meadows is impenetrable iron ore, not unlike the character of our Texas relatives, I suspect, gentle on the outside, strong on the inside. Yesterday I worried that they might dislike us if they know we're Democrats, today I can't imagine that it matters much. Divisions among Americans seem to have been blasted to smithereens yesterday by our attackers. Today we are bonded in a way I've not seen in my lifetime.

That's where I was and what I was doing five years ago. It's from the research journal I posted on At about 7:55 am CST, I was in my car with the radio on, waiting for Skip to come out of the guest cottage behind the B&B. The radio personalities were speaking frantically about planes and bombs and end-of-the-world Bible prophecy. Thinking it was some sort of cheesy radio drama promoting the popular Left Behind books, I switched stations only to find the same kind of conversation. "Let me find NPR quick, and get away from these religious fanatics!" I thought to myself, quickly heading toward the left end of the FM dial. I quickly recognized the voices of the NPR announcers, but low and behold! They were talking about the same thing, well, I don't think they said anything about Armageddon or the Antichrist.

By 8:00, Skip was in the car and was totally bumfuzzled by all the excitement. The second plane had not hit the second tower, yet. Then as we listened, it did. I wanted to go back in the house and turn on the TV, but we hadn't had breakfast (our hostess was out of town), so we decided to drive downtown and look for a Hibernia Bank so Skip could get some cash, then find a cafe. The tellers in the bank were glued to a small tv set, he said, as he returned to the car. There was also one playing in the small cafe where we ate. That was the first glimpse I remember getting of the horrific images being projected to the world. Skip remembers us going back in the B&B to watch it for a few minutes on tv before setting out in the car. Maybe we did.

When we got to the library in Palestine (pronounced Palesteen), they had a black ribbon on the locked door with a sign declaring the library closed in sympathy for the victims in New York and Washington, DC. I think that was when we discovered the part about Washington. Or maybe it was at the courthouse where we went next. Everybody there was transfixed by the unfolding tragedy. Somehow, we were able to detach and do the work we drove from Mississippi to Texas to do.

In reviewing some of the other files, I realize how very little headway we've made since then on the Johnson family. So many clues that led to dead ends. Terribly frustrating.

1 comment:

Zoilus said...

You should rewrite that account into a real live narrative, using literary elements like description and direct dialogue. That's what I usually assign for my first essay of the semester. I'm going to write mine out one of these days, too.