9/11 and the Pipe Dream Drive to Work

August 11, 2011 — 2 Comments

In a few short weeks we approach the anniversary of a tragedy that most of you reading this remember well.

I didn’t know anyone directly who perished on 9/11.  I still feel for them and pray for their families.  I pray that I am living better because of what we have learned from that day.  I now am married and have two little girls and when the time is right, I will share what happened on that fateful day and what we all have learned from it.  My parents had shared where they were when hearing that JFK was assassinated and their parent’s experience when hearing about Pearl Harbor being attacked.  Each generation had its defining moments.  In my early 20s, I wondered if my generation would have that kind of moment.  Before 9/11 I remember vividly the following events; The Challenging exploding in 1986, Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Black Hawk Down in 1993 (occurred on my birthday), and yes even Bill Clinton’s speech acknowledging his indiscretions with Monica Lewinsky.

I had only been working in my new job out of college for a few months when the 9/11 attack happened.  My routine each day was a 10 mile drive toward downtown St. Louis.  My routine was filled with two cups of coffee, one at home, one for the ride to work and I would listen to talk radio.  On 9/11 the routine was broken.   My car had broken down the day before so I borrowed my parent’s car.  Instead of the daily radio talk, I put in Travis’ new album The Invisible Band and listened. Perhaps nothing for anyone was routine following 9/11.  I would have listened to the live reporting of the attack on my drive in but instead was in some other world.  I learned immediately when I entered the door at work from a colleague that planes had hit the towers.  We had a person from our New York office visiting us that day and she was emotionally distraught not knowing if her loved ones were okay (She learned later that they were).

The next morning, I took a look at lyrics from one of my favorite songs on that album that I listened to that fateful drive to work.  It was the song, Pipe Dreams.  

I read it all, every word
And I still don’t understand a thing
What had you heard?
What had you heard?

Very few things were ordinary about 9/11.  What had you heard on that day? 

The day after 9/11, I like many still went to work.  No music today  as I paid close attention to the talk radio.  It was full of fear, confusion, sadness, full of messages about economic demise, and anger.

My office was a half a mile down the street from the UPS central depot in St. Louis.  If I was just a little late getting to work, I would be stopped by the trucks leaving for their daily delivery route.  On the normal day, I would have been extremely annoyed if getting caught by these trucks.

On 9/12,  I was stopped by those UPS delivery trucks.  I sat in my car cheering for 30 UPS trucks leaving their depot.  I was not alone and saw several others doing the same.  Were we cheering for giving terrorists the finger and that economically we would not slow down?  Not really.  It felt more like a symbolic way that people were willing to keep moving forward even after being knocked down.

Ask any boxer about this feeling.  You get hit.  You get knocked down.  You get back up and fight.

My responsibility as a human being living during such a tumultuous period is to share the lessons we have learned.  I wonder how we will remember 9/11, 50 years from now?  Unfortunately events like these could probably happen again in some fashion.  My daughters’ generation will have defining moments but may they learn from 9/11, JFK, and Pearl Harbor an important lesson I learned as well as my parents.

We must keep going forward. 

2 responses to 9/11 and the Pipe Dream Drive to Work

    MAJ SHANE KELLEY August 11, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Great topic David. I am probably like many that when looking back on that day it seems to carry some eerie coincidences. I was in my final year at Radford University and had a criminal justice class at 9:00am on that Tuesday morning. We usually met in a standard class room filled with desks and some chalk boards, but our class was meeting at one of the audio-visual classrooms that day because we were going to watch a documentary film. I usually arrived early because I had physical training in the mornings with ROTC. So I arrived to the A/V room around 8:40am as another student and I began to fumble through turning on the TVs and DVD player to help out the professor. I remember fumbling through this several times before with other classes as it always seemed to end in frustration. It was always a game of trying to figure out how to get the TVs on the right input and making sure the right inputs were connected properly. For some strange reason, the TVs turned on to CNN when we hit the power button. The other student and I walked to the A/V stack with CNN in the background, not really paying attention at first, trying to figure out how to get the DVD player ready and turn the TVs to the DVD input. We were both looking at the stack when the news anchor commented on a report of an airplane crashing into one of the towers. We curiously paused to watch the update. It was initially reported with very little information or assurance from the anchor, leading me to believe that it was some accident. Students started to flow into the classroom and would receive a brief summary of the CNN reports each time. Just as the professor entered and said we need to get the TVs ready and for us to stop getting side-tracked, we saw the live footage of the second airplane smashing into the second tower. I remember running out to the hall shortly after the second tower was hit to call my roommates and tell them to turn on CNN. No one said anything for over an hour…just sat staring at the screens. It wasn’t until students from the class after us began to enter the room that we realized how long we had been there. No one really wanted to divert attention to bring the incoming students up to date since almost all of them were hearing the news for the first time.

    I feel like 9/11 very quickly put the magnitude of my (at the time) future duties as an Army Officer. I remember seeing one of my favorite political cartoons shortly after the attack…the one of an eagle sitting down and sharpening his talons. That cartoon summarized my feeling at that time. Unfortunately my grades suffered some my last semester of my college career, but it was so I could sharpen my talons and prepare for my commission into the Army. Despite all of the controversy over policies or actions in the past decade, I am more than pleased with where our fight against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks stands today and am proud to have taken an active role in one of our generation’s defining moments. I am even more proud of how our nation has been able to move on, just as David pointed out. There are hundreds of reasons why our country is the greatest country in the world, but our resolve after these attacks demonstrates one of the greatest reasons. We are able to overcome and persevere like few other nations, just as David’s story demonstrates. So upon the anniversary of 9/11, I propose a toast to American perseverance and determination in the face of danger and hope that our nation is able to unite through our current economical troubles and other issues to maintain our global status.


    Shane, we are indebted to you and your service. It is as if God’s timing for your college experience, ROTC, and becoming an officer came together with such major events in history. Your blog continues to impress me. Keep sharing your story.

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