To Keep Pedaling
It was a Tuesday.
I had been married about a month and a half.
I got up early to ride my stationary bike before work.
My husband was getting ready to go to his office.
He got a call from a friend.
“Hey, you should probably turn on your TV. There’s something going on in New York City.”
My husband came to me, turned on the TV next to my stationary bike.
He said, “______ just called and said we need to turn on our TV. She said something’s going on in New York City. A bombing or something.”
My husband and I began to watch the TV.
Without realizing, I continued to cycle on my stationary bike.
As I watched the footage, my legs kept pedaling.
The words across the screen didn’t make any sense.
“Planes fly into Twin Towers in New York City.”
My husband stood next to me as we watched.
The movement of my legs became quite unconscious as I watched the footage. They just kept going.
The news reported confusion and panic. Tragedy. Death.
3,000 miles from our home.
What the hell?
Somebody flew a plane into a New York City tower?
And, a second plane into the second tower?
My husband and I continued to watch.
The towers fell.
We watched them fall live on TV.
And, I kept pedaling.
Finally, it hit me…I know people there. My best friends work in New York City.
Why the hell am I still pedaling my bike?
In reality, I had no idea about the geography of New York City. All I remember thinking was my friends worked there. In New York City.
In that moment, all of my friends could be in danger. Or injured. Or worse.
And, what the hell was I doing? Pedaling my bike.
I got on the phone and began to call my friends.
The first friend I spoke to asked me to call her mom, she couldn’t reach her.
At least I could help one of my friends from 3,000 miles away. I got in touch with my friend’s mom—your daughter is okay.
It turned out, even though they all worked in New York City, only one of my friends worked in that lower Manhattan location (the Wall Street area). She was uninjured but had to walk out of the area (subways shut down, no taxis). My friend had to walk miles to reach relative safety.
She was stunned. Numb. This was just supposed to be a normal work day.
All of my friends were affected, whether they worked “down there” or not.
It wouldn’t be wrong to think they were more affected than I was.
I felt like I was 3,000 miles away pedaling on my stationary bike.
They were New Yorkers. I was too far away to be similarly affected.
By the time I had accounted for all of my friends, we had our “big” TV on.
A plane had flown into the Pentagon.
Airports in the United States were closing and trying to account for their planes.
My husband and I were told not to go to work. (That lasted two days.)
News outlets told us to stay home. Told everyone to stay home.
The United States shut down—long before any pandemic-related shutdown.
What the hell was happening?
Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that I was affected by the events of September 11, 2001 because I’m an American. I cried that day. And the next. (There were times I had to turn off the TV.)
I cried at the loss, the tragedy.
At the senselessness of it all.
How does killing people make other people feel good?
I didn’t understand on that day, and I will never understand.
It was a frightening time. My new husband and I wanted to start a family. Yet, planes were being flown into buildings in our country? Whether that was 3,000 miles away or not, there were warnings that it could happen to us in Los Angeles.
We were stunned twenty years ago today.
We were confused, angry, sad. All of it.
Over these last twenty years, there were times you talked about 9-11.
“Where were you on that day?” “When did you first hear about it?”
I would begin with… “I was pedaling my stationary bike before work and…”
There’s no guilty feeling about why my legs keep moving—pedaling a bike—while my brain tried to process what I was watching on the TV.
My legs just kept going. That’s what happened.
Today, I feel like that’s what Americans had to do on September 12th, 2001.
The next day.
And, all of the days after 9-11.
We had to keep going.
Clean up and build again.
We had no choice.
On the twentieth anniversary of 9-11, I vow to move forward.
To try to make things better.
Work with people, help people, fix broken stuff.
Tearing down is never acceptable.
Killing to make yourself feel…something…is never acceptable.
To keep pedaling.
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