Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11

The Longest 48 Hours Of My Life


(".....The far airstrip is on fire! A line of fire about 500 yards long. I got closer and noticed it just wasnt flames. There was mass......")




I never lost a family member in the Terrorist Attacks. I was not asked to be a Canadian Crew of the Fire or Police to volunteer to help New York. I wasn't even a helpful hero, like some colleagues of mine happened to become. I was probably in the most remote place I could have been on that fateful day. Yet still, my world, as I knew it, changed in the hours following the beginning of events on 9/11.


Five years ago I was a Canadian long haul transport truck driver. I drove in a team truck which means that when I slept, my partner drove, and when my partner slept, I drove. The truck rolled down the road twenty-four hours a day, 7 days a week, for approximately 20 days at a time.

I drove at night. So the morning was our time to switch drivers. My partner awoke, and promptly turned on the TV in the truck while they got dressed. The driver's seat is separated by a firm curtain, from the sleeping quarters. I could only hear a muffled sound of the news.

Driving along the highway near Bute Montana I watched the sun rise and begin to hang full above the horizon in my rear view when I finally heard the news. Every 20 minutes the news footage would repeat for us to see the sickening event over and over. Our GPS computer started to beep. Head office was sending out emergency warnings. Then things started to sink in. This was real, and the humans in North America were at risk, and we did not know what was going to happen next, and if the attack plans were greater than we could imagine.

Our route had been changed the day before, and our families did not know where our truck was. My cell phone wouldn't work, and I could tell no one we were ok and not near New York. Suddenly the anxiety hit me. I pulled into the first business I could in Bute to find a phone. I called my husband first. I told him that the US news was not certain if more large cities were being targetted and I wanted him out of Toronto and back to the countryside with the kids. I called my parents in the city of Toronto and told them where I was. I told them that my husband was going back home to be with the kids. I also told them if the city was gonna get hit, they should go to our house in the countryside. I honestly don't remember what my parents told me. I don't even remember if they came to our house or not. I don't even remember what happened once my husband headed home. My memory went blank on what I shared with my family after the initial calls. I was petrified. I was not worried about my risk at all. I was worried about my family living in one of the largest cities in Canada....Toronto.

When we got back to the truck the GPS was going crazy. Head Office was sending commands on what they needed us to do to prepare for a border crossing. They sent notices to all of our truckers who were Persian, Egyptian, Iraqui, Iranian, Israeli, Pakistani, Indian, Sikh, Indo-Asian, or anyone that could be mistaken for anyone middle-eastern because of their skin colour...... They were all to get to a border as soon as they possibly could. They were to cross the border back into Canada. Until further notice they were to drive in Canada Only, while the US set in place new secure border regulations and crossing standards for the "safety of all North Americans". We were also told that the event was too traumatic for some drivers, and drivers were abandoning their loads to try to get home. We were under strict penalty if we chose to do this, but the company was trying their best to be as reasonable as they could if truckers were having emotional problems. They would do their best to get us home as fast as we needed.

The GPS told us that we were to expect unusually long border crossing times, and there were precidents being co-ordinated between borders and logistics companies to make the transition as easy as possible.
Under no circmustances were any trucks to dilly dally getting to their destinations if they were already loaded, especially if they were to cross the border.

Our destination was the border between Washington and BC which would take us to depot in Vancouver. It was daylight when we were crossing the boarder into Canada. I had heard there were line-ups of trucks miles long, so I was surprised when we got up to the last leg of the border road and there was no line up of trucks. It was unusually quiet.

That scared me even more. Had Vancouver or Seattle been hit? Were people running from this border? We slowly rolled up to the border. Both my partner and I got out every piece of ID we had and sat solomnly in our truck seats as we approached the border.

We expected to be searched and to be scrutinized by the army or police or border guards, but nothing happened. We came to the window of the border guard. They asked for our truck manifest looked at it and our ID, photocopied everything, and within 2 minutes we were done. We asked if the border officer was OK and they said, "Yes, for now."
We thanked them graciously for their professionalism, and we headed toward our Vancouver Depot.

Then it hit us. A view that brought tears to our eyes. We saw a line of trucks lined up to head back into the US. Tail to bumper without room to spare. There was a solid line of transports 6 miles long! We were supposed to drop our load in town and grab another and head right back to the US. The line would only be longer when we did our loop! I knew what we were doing for our return load. It was car parts to go to Kentucky for Toyota. It was a timed load and we had to have it there with no time to spare. A day's wait at the border would not do well for our customer. We were told to do our best but just in time loads were not being penalized. Yet we also were told only Ford had shut down productions in the US at that time.

Our company said pick up the load and drive through Canada and in the mean time the company would work out with the broker a better border to cross at. So we headed over the Rocky Mountains on our journey through Canada to get to another border in the United States.

It is about a 12 hour drive over the rocky mountains to get to the Canadian plains. By the time we finished our night trip through the Rockies, we had a new border destination. We were to cross at Portal where Saskatchewan and North Dakota meet. We arrived at Portal the next evening. We were bracing ourselves for long lines. When we got to the border it was empty. We approached slowly, as we were instructed by our company.

Out of the tiny building armed officers came toward us and signalled us to stop.
They told us they would inspect the whole truck and we were to take our ID to the building and talk to the Immigration Officers inside. Each of us taken to separate rooms. In each room there was a computer manned by very large and intimidating men.

We we were given detailed forms we had to fill out. Then the officers would plug in all of our data into the computer. This is when I found out that we really have no privacy. That every detail of our lives is recorded somewhere. My partner and I had been part of the first groups that underwent Federal Canadian and US investigations to carry a special Border Card. This was our chance to find out what the two governments knew of us, from the info we volunteered 6 months earlier.

The Officer turned his computer screen to show me what he had just learned about me. He knew I was definitely Lynn Tucker. He knew who my Dad was, and beside his details were the words, hostage negotiator, internal investigator, retired, bank securities, self-employed fishing company. My Mother's info was there to. Her federal licences were listed. Then me. Lynn Tucker (nee Lundy), College Degrees, Two Children, aka Amy Rosenburg, FBI investigation July 2001, Canadian Federal Clearance, 2000, 2001, Husband Carl.......

They new everything about me! They knew everything about my family and my life. They knew how many times my passport had been stamped. I was questioned about every visa stamp on my passport. They then laughed and said, "Why do you have an alias?" I started to laugh too. I was embarrassed to say it was a pseudonym. It seemed so irrellivant at that moment.

So for 20 minutes we were questioned and extra details about that particular day were added to the computer info. Then the Immigration officer said," You are done now. The information is in the database. Take this photocopy and tell any US immigration you have already been processed at this Border Crossing. You won't be asked to do this twice."

The men who questioned us were brought in from Portland Port Authority to aid in the processes. At this point there were lots of rumours going around. The rumours spread about a car load of people who broke through the border gate south of Calgary-going into the US. Aparently the Sherrif was chasing the vehicle at that moment we were crossing.

We had to walk across the border to the broker office.
The broker was to come out with us and prove his load.
He did that. There was a bit of an average snag in the time it took for him to do that, but it was a painless process.

The next events are burned into my mind. I drove again that night. I took a rural route 39 to 52 and then 52/281 through North Dakota. At about 42 hrs after the 9/11 impact I was driving in the middle of the night on that route through North Dakota. There were no planes in the air since 1hr after the event. What I saw put my heart into my throat. It made me very warey of what I could perceive as truth..........................

2AM. I am basically alone on this rural road. The sky is black. The roads are black. The night was clear and beautiful in a weird way. Ahead I see this bright glow to my right. My curiosity is peaked. It looks like flames! As I approach that field on my right things begin to take shape and make more sense to my eyes.

I saw rows of blue and red lights. Ahh, an airstrip! Geeze! The far airstrip is on fire! A line of fire about 500 yards long. I got closer and noticed it just wasnt flames. There was mass in that flame, and there were big trucks in the foreview of the firestorm. These trucks were not fire trucks in the regular sense. They were like big pickup trucks with hoses mounted in their cargo area. Men where aiming the hoses at the flame and spraying something into the torrent.

I tried to snap pictures with my camera but it was too dark and the camera wasnt as sophisticated as my digital is today. All I got were blurred streaks. I was afraid to stop. My nerves unravelled.

My first thought was ok a plane crashed. It wasn't until much later that it even dawned on me that no aircraft had flown that day because they were banned. In the morning I called home and asked if there were planes flying yet, and my parents told me, 'No'.

The days passed. We were kept in the US. Our company had us drive to depots near every border crossing and pick up loads that were dropped by our "city" drivers who would sit in those 30 hr lines for crossing the boarder and waste all their driving hours waiting, so we could have fresh hours on the other side of the border to move stuff to our customers.

Weeks passed. Finally things settled enough for us to go home.
Things had changed so much.

Every day of those weeks our view changed. The news was on the radio day and night. We saw people at every over-pass waving flags and holding banners in unity praising the United States. Truckers and tourists and regular commuters were purchasing every flag and pin they could. Everyone wanted to show their solidarity. Truckers were sporting entwined US and Canadian flags on their trucks. Everyone wore Red, White and Blue. Truckers would shake eachothers hands at the truck stops, and all of the truck stop staff became our families cuz we couldn't go home. There were a sea of car flags and FDNYC flags and hats. People got nervous in traffic, and phone calls home came every morning and every night.

Crossing the border now had rules. All interior lights had to be turned on, so the Army could see in our cab. Every vehicle had to stop several yards from the border booth. They could not move until they were signalled forward. Armed Military were at both sides of the Border. Their command tents were pitched on every piece of grass available. Armed guards would stand in front of the truck as we got out and were visually inspected. Portable xray machines were affixed in line with the crossing vehicles.

The border changed. If you didnt obey the rules you could be shot. No one wanted to find out what would happen if you disobeyed the rules. There were no more pushy truckers. Everyone was doing their best to be helpful to eachother in a situation no one wanted to be happening.

Folks became friendlier. People would honk and arm-cheer other drivers with pro America flash on their vehicles. As much as it was a time of unity, it was a time when all of us lost our naivity. A time when the US felt the horror that other terror-ridden countries experience. When Canada suddenly became the the refuge home to international travellers turned away from the USA mid-flight. A time when Police, Fire, and Military from Canada and the United States volunteered their time to do what needed to be done in lieu of days off and vacations.
A time when for a month after the attack we still heard the word retrieval, in respect to the dead.

One year ago I saw a news program on events surrounding Osama BinLaden and his band of world terrorists. At that time it was presented that BinLaden's family members were taken out of the US via a Dakota's air strip, after the attack.

I went numb. And the question again raised in my head. "Why was a plane on fire in the Dakotas in the no fly zone when I drove by? Was that line of debris a crashed plane or a blown up plane? Is it relevant to the information we are not being told?"

We will probably never know the answer to that question.

*Please thank "Rocks In My Dryer" for working so hard on this list!*

15 comments:

Lynn said...

I reloaded this post to get my linky Widget working.
The first comment is copied from the old post.
From:
PassTheTorch (http://kellycurtis.blogspot.com/

Wow. What a story. Oh my gosh!
You had a very unique perspective on that day firve years ago.

I think you're right. We'll never know the answer to that question.

Kelly
Home of Pass The Torch Tuesday

RheLynn said...

A very different perspective than what I saw that day. Thank you for sharing it. I was a college student in North Dakota at the time, and after my first class went to drop off a book at the library. Just inside the doors there was a mass of people standing, transfixed on the tv-screen at the checkout. I think the first plane had just hit the first tower.

It wasn't a big screen, but there must have been at least fifty of us there -- in semi-silence, feeling mostly for the people there in the towers - not yet knowing what else was to come.

FruitfulSpirit said...

There is probably lots that we don't know and I can honestly say I don't want to know. I feel safe at the moment but also know that can change at any moment! Thanks for sharing your story Lynn. What a hard time that must have been for you!

Lynn said...

To Rhelynn,

See how close we were in proximity that day.
I would really like to have a message from someone who knows about that fire. Telling me it was something totally different from what I perceived it to be.
I have told very few people about that. Until today only a few close friends and my family know about what I saw.

Lynn said...

Hey Fruitful Spirit,

After the initial calls, I know I went through some sort of routine once the first two days passed, but it is a very blurry memory.
I dont have many blurry memories. I remember when I was like 18months old, and still in a crib!
I expect it must have been difficult if the memory is blurry, cuz I have always believed blurry memories shield pain.

Pamela said...

What a new story line....
I had never ever thought about all the truckers, nor how this would impact their lives.

I'm glad I popped over and read this.
ref: bin Laden family flight
Snopes , one of the places that tries to check out those kind of rumors. They say that isn't true.

I sure am curious as to what you saw, tho!!!

Mother of Invention said...

Wow...sounds like something on Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Or Part Of The Unexplained. Yours is a unique mystery.

Mushy said...

Great story...glad I stopped by.

chumly said...

I still today cannot watch anything about 9/11 but I still remember and still pray and cry inside.

Dawn said...

Amazing story - totally different from anything else I've heard or read. Thanks for stopping by.

Catch said...

Lyn, a very good story.....and thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. Look forward to seeing you again!

Pam in Colorado said...

Wow, what a story. My first husband and my brother were both cross country truck drivers. Both have traveled coast to coast and in Canada.

My first husband died about a year before the attacks. Had he not, I'm sure he would have had amazing stories to tell as well. My brother was on the road and had many diversions for quite a while.

Thanks for sharing.

me said...

wow..great story, i hate having that feeling that i cannot trust the people in charge of my country. but that is the way i feel these days. your story only adds fuel to my speculation. thanks for posting, and finding me.

Candy Minx said...

Lynn, what a great memory of your day, and rather spooky...I am scratching my head and amzed at what you saw and how Michael Moore had made his movie about it. I do remember hearing some news coverage how trucks and buses were afeected by the new way to cross the border.

Great stuff woman!

Dirty Butter said...

I've shielded myself from reading a whole lot about 9/11, because I just didn't think I could handle it emotionally. So I don't know why I started reading your post, but I'm glad I did. It was a completely different perspective than any I had gotten from the little I've allowed myself to be exposed to. Very revealing of the state of the country moment by moment. Thanks for sharing.

I voted for you on BLOG VILLAGE today.