Laura Brown’s 9/11 Experience
On September 11, 2001 49 year old Mrs. Laura Brown was in her car on her way to an appointment at the VA Hospital in Indianapolis.
“After arriving at the VA I joined the other veterans, most who had seen war time devastation first-hand, as we watched the initial reports and telecasts. The sense of shock was beyond comprehension,” Brown said. “I saw the news reports, starting at about 10:00 AM. At that point, the news stations were still showing actual raw films, without censoring or filtering them for images that might be too disturbing for families of the victims to watch.”
Thoughts in the mind of Americans were racing.
“[My initial thoughts were] “how will the crisis be handled?” As a former disaster preparedness officer in the Air Force, I was trained to handle disasters of this type, so it really “hit home” to watch the response unfold,” said Brown. “Everyone was watching the TV monitors in the VA Hospital waiting areas, discussing and guessing at the causes and anticipating the repercussions. Each of us was remembering the military situations we had been in that were similar. We were feeling a sense of both need to react quickly and helplessness because we couldn’t.”
This day would become unforgettable in the lives’ of many Americans.
“The rest of the day was spent with a lot of rapid action to do things like get gas and stock up on groceries in case supplies were temporarily limited. In addition, I needed to try to explain to my son, who was in Junior High at the time, just what was going on without creating an undue sense of fear or hysteria. There were a lot of unanswered questions and trying to discover what was really happening was difficult since no one really knew the cause or extent of the disaster,” Brown said.
The nation was changed drastically as a result of this day.
“We now have military forces in locations never imagined. Reserve and National Guard forces, that before were very seldom used, are now being sent into dangerous situations constantly. Family members who had entered the reserves planning on never being actually sent into battle were called up and sent into tough situations. While none died, the post-traumatic stress still causes issues.
Military medical facilities are now overloaded with injuries and long-term care for an increasing number of veterans. And those veterans are finding the after-effects of service combined with lack of jobs to be overwhelming at best. This uses my tax dollars and funds used for this are not available for other government programs such as education and general health care.
My family members who are Muslim have had to deal with extreme prejudice and criticism. My niece and nephews learned far too early in life that standing up for one’s faith isn’t easy in times of crisis – although they also learned how to do so with dignity and a spirit of peaceful understanding. Try explaining to 6th grade classmates that just because one small group of extremists who share your faith did something bad, it doesn’t mean you, yourself, are an evil person who should be shunned or threatened to the point you have to go into hiding. Prices for oil and oil based products have risen continually. Suspicion and distrust of people who are ethnically different has become pervasive.
Air travel has become a series of security checks with a “no fly” list that has affected even persons with no known connection to terror or crime. Communications, especially electronic ones, are being constantly (although often covertly) monitored and filtered. My son, nieces, and nephews are now being faced with increasing national debt, decreased world stability, unstable job markets, and a world of suspicion, unrest, and retaliation,” Brown said.
“September 11, 2001 will always be associated in my mind with the veterans at the VA Hospital who watched the hospital TV monitors in horror. Veterans are taught to be tough, to react, to jump in and do the right thing. Knowing we were in the waiting room unable to do anything was one of the worst experiences possible for anyone who is trained to help. For me, as a former disaster preparedness officer, it was especially difficult. I KNEW what was happening behind the scenes. Watching the tears flow as hardened vets relived their own war-time experiences and grieved for the young men and women who would have to live them in the future was heartbreaking. I knew my son would be pushed into a world where fighting and distrust were to be the norm.
On a practical side, the day still had to go on as normal although there was a new sense of urgency about routine things like checking the gas and getting stocked up on groceries. With air traffic at a total standstill, the President being moved through various locations for protection, and no obvious reason or responsible party for the disaster, no one knew if ANYTHING would be open or available in 24 hours. Newscasts took center stage for the evening. Questions flew through my mind regarding the safety of my Muslim family – by evening there were threats. Other questions, like “why did this happen?” and “what do we do now?” could only be answered as the investigation continued.
The day was spent waiting for more disasters to occur. While the four plane crashes (two at the twin towers, one at the Pentagon, and one in Pennsylvania) were horrible to contemplate, it seemed that any attack that massive would include far more attacks in far more places. In a way, there were more attacks. Emotionally there was an attack on all innocent people. Faith in our immunity from attack was shattered. The economy took a serious blow. Ethnic groups were ostracized and (in some cases) physically attacked.
September 11 did, however accomplish some good things. Our veterans are now honored rather than abused when they return home. We have a sense of national pride. There is an increasing voice of the people regarding international politics. Young men and women have realized that freedom isn’t free and that it must be maintained despite the cost. The terrorists of the world have seen that we in the United States come together in disastrous situations rather than fall apart and fracture into splinter groups. People and governmental units have realized that they are not invincible and have better plans for reacting to disasters – whether man-made or natural. Yes, this day of horror served to galvanize and strengthen the US. We bear the scars but, I believe, we are stronger for it,” Brown said.