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Courtney Bowie: 'A Week After 9/11, I Was Still Crying'

The Midwestern 20-something — who had close ties to New York co-workers who witnessed the 9/11 attacks — says the patriotic feelings she developed in their aftermath haven't wavered since.

By Liz Neporent

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The 10-year anniversary of September 11, 2001, is conjuring up all kinds of mixed emotions among people across the United States. Everyday Health asked four people with different connections to the attacks to recount their stories — and look back on how the day that forever transformed the national consciousness continues to affect them.

Imagine sitting in Columbus, Ohio on the phone with people in New York City when the first plane hit during the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. That’s what happened to 27-year-old Courtney Bowie, who was on a conference call with several colleagues situated in various buildings close to the towers. One moment they were discussing work, the next she heard a commotion on the other end of the line.

I remember one person said he thought there had been an explosion. I wondered, "What does that mean? What does that look like?" Being able to hear things, but not being able to see any of it, was terrifying. I could sense the fear and shock in everyone’s voices.

I vividly remember one person who was in an office near the towers, watching everything from his window and talking about what he was seeing. He was saying, “There’s paper, paper everywhere. There are people.” I think he was seeing people jumping, though I wasn’t sure. The way he talked, it was almost was like he was in a catatonic state, speaking out loud but not even realizing what he was saying. It was like he was narrating a story.

One of the most awful parts of that phone call was a discussion between a husband and a wife who both worked for the company and who were both on the conference call. Having not yet gone to the office, the wife was in her apartment nearby and was saying she was leaving to help emergency workers. The husband wanted so badly for her to stay put. He was trying to talk her out of leaving but she said she had to go help. All I could do is sit there and listen and wonder why he was so scared of her leaving and what would happen if she did. The conversation ended with someone saying they would call me back.

When I checked my email from home later that night, I saw an email from the wife who had gone outside to help the medical efforts. She wrote about how she had been near the South Tower performing first aid when it collapsed and had run up the street and thrown herself against a building to avoid being killed. She was safe now but couldn’t find her husband and asked me if I’d heard from him. I can’t express what it felt like to have her contacting me in Ohio, hundreds of miles away, to ask me if I knew where her husband was in New York. It was a hard couple hours until I heard they’d found each other and a hard couple of days until I eventually learned that although the offices were trashed, everyone from our company had made it.

My Initial Reaction: Isolated and Angry

Back in Ohio, everyone was panicking as 9/11 was happening. I was panicking because of what I had heard on the conference call. This was followed by a weird couple of days where everyone else around me was so far removed from the events, but I wasn’t. I felt really kind of angry about that. Everyone was getting back to work and laughing and joking. But I felt too close to it. So when everyone was able to go on with their lives, I thought they didn’t understand what had occurred.

Part of the problem for me was that I was in a vacuum of people in their early twenties. Life went back to normal so quickly for them. It’s hard to rock a 20-something’s world. The sense I got was that [the 9/11 events and aftermath] was something they were watching on the news from afar, like when there’s a tsunami. You see it on the news and you feel bad about it but you don’t go into action or give it much thought past the news report.

Being connected to New York made it so personal for me. A week later I was still crying and people kept telling me ‘everything’s fine now.’

How 9/11 Changed Me

I didn’t erase the email from the wife trying to find her husband until several years later on one of the 9/11 anniversaries. It was already burned into my brain. I didn’t need the physical proof. Emotionally, I just needed to let go of it.

My husband [who was my boyfriend at the time of 9/11] and I had a new rule from that day forward. He travels a lot for work and he now texts, phones, or emails me every time his plane takes off and every time he lands. I never said ‘you have to do this,’ but he started doing it after 9/11 and he’s never stopped. It’s our unwritten rule.

10 Years Later I Feel…

The 10-year anniversary of September 11, 2001, is conjuring up all kinds of mixed emotions among people across the United States. Everyday Health asked four people with different connections to the attacks to recount their stories — and look back on how the day that forever transformed the national consciousness continues to affect them.

September 11 taught me to be more appreciative of everyone and everything I have. I think that sense has lasted. I have very close friends in the military and it has really brought home a sense of pride in my country that I didn’t have before. I appreciate what they are doing and how these people are giving up their lives for us. When 9/11 happened I was very young and didn’t think about such things. That immediately changed and my patriotic feelings have never wavered since.

What’s your 9/11 story? Where were you? How did the day affect your family, life, health? Share your thoughts on .






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Date: 09.12.2018, 05:23 / Views: 52461