Frizzi: As the World Stopped Turning

Log in to save this page.

This November, the world, especially those of us who lived through it, will remember the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

To many, it's just history book fodder. Just like it was for kids of our generation when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. It happened before us so it didn't affect us, except on a history test. Then, we became older and knew better.

This September will mark the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on The World Trade Center in New York City. While I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday or where my car keys are, I remember that day vividly.

Just like I can the day President Kennedy died. I was in the first grade in Pittsburgh. It was time for lunch, so our teacher led us to the lunch room in the school's basement. It wasn't a cafeteria where they served food. It was just a space with picnic tables. You either ate or traded whatever lunch your mom would pack in your Jetsons' metal lunch box.

I noticed the teachers crying and the principal trying to calm them down. They were very quiet, whispering and looking around to see if any of us were looking at them. I went back to talking to my pals and probably complained about math.

After we ate, the principal made an announcement. We'd get to go home for the rest of the day. The kids, being kids, cheered. But the principal never told us why. I thought it was silly that they kept us in school to eat lunch and then send us home.

When I got home, my mom was watching the TV and dusting. This was something she usually did at that time because her soap opera, "As The World Turns," was on. This time, she was watching TV but going through the motion of dusting.

Mom told me that the President had been shot and did I understand what that meant. "Sure I did", I told her. After all, I was 6, going on 7! I'd seen plenty of soldiers, crooks and rustlers get shot on TV. They all said "Awwwgh! You've got me!" and dropped dead. Then, we went outside with our toy guns, shot each other, said "Awwwgh! You've got me!" and fell dead. Then, we got up, laughed, grabbed our guns and continued playing.

But this was serious. There were no cartoons or any of my favorite shows. It was nonstop news. Walter Cronkite was on all the time. And he wasn't laughing.

No one was laughing.

It just felt like the world stopped turning.

In later years, the world would stop turning again when President Kennedy's brother Robert, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and John Lennon of the Beatles were shot.

I was just finishing a term paper in college and turned on the last minutes of Monday Night Football when Howard Cosell broke the news about Lennon. I didn't feel like going to classes the next day, but I did. When the professor, himself obviously upset, mentioned Lennon's death, a perky co-ed asked, "Who's John Lennon?"

But I remember where I was during all those times that the world stopped turning. Just as my dad, as a 5 year old, remembered when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

In Central Illinois, Sept. 11, 2001 was a gorgeous day, weather wise. The sky was a beautiful blue with cotton ball clouds. I had a cup of coffee on the drive in and was listening to "Bob and Tom" on the radio. You could tell which cars had "Bob and Tom" on the radio because the drivers would simultaneously break out in laughter. I pulled into the parking lot a little late, about three minutes past eight o'clock, Central Standard Time and went inside.

I saw a co-worker on the way in. I smiled, said what a beautiful day it was and he looked at me like I was nuts. It wasn't the first time anyone at the office looked at me like I was nuts, but I still remember the look of audacity on his face.

Before I started the day's tasks, I pulled up the internet. I liked to catch some news, maybe some ball scores. I pulled up CNN. There was just a single page. No links. Just a picture of one of the twin towers with smoke pouring out of it. The headline was "Plane Hits World Trade Center". The first thought I had was remembering that a plane had once hit the Empire State Building and the building could be repaired. I think that plane was a small two-seater or a Cessna. But the hole in the side of the Trade Center tower looked like it was hit by a plane a lot bigger than a Cessna.

It was then that small patches of the office started to buzz with the news. People started filing to the cafeteria where they had TV's so you could watch Fox News. I went there just after I heard that the first tower fell.

I went up to a friend of mine watching the TV. We looked at each other. He said that he had heard that this attack was almost as bad as Pearl Harbor. "I think it's going to be worse," I said. I went back to the desk after the second tower fell.

I guess it was our way of telling the world that we were attacked but we weren't beaten.

In 2006, Heddy and I went to New York City. We saw the sights, good as well as bad. We went to the Dakota Apartments, where John Lennon was shot in 1980.

We also went to Ground Zero. We took the ferry from Liberty Island to Battery Park, where "The Sphere", the sculpture damaged during the attack, was moved.

The closer we got to Ground Zero, the more scaffolds we walked under as repairs were still being made to neighboring buildings. We then came along a construction site. It was surrounded by a chain link fence with workers doing their jobs. They were working around what was left of a staircase. To our right was the giant plaque dedicated to firefighters who lost their lives on 9-11. We had reached FDNY Ten-House, located right across the street from the tower site. There was a sign on the front of the fire house requesting visitors not to ask the firefighters about 9-11.

Like other sightseers, I was taking pictures of the site. It looked like any other construction site, complete with rubble, construction equipment and workers. But it was also a gravesite for thousands of victims and the heroes who tried to save them. It was sacred ground. I wonder what was going through those worker's heads as they were clearing the area that would eventually be a monument. I also wondered what was going through their minds as crowd upon crowd took their picture. So, I put up my camera and walked away.

Heddy and I went a couple blocks away to grab a slice of pizza at a joint across the street from Zuccotti Park. It was early evening and the park still had a good bit of people relaxing in it. Near the edge of the park is a statue called "Double Check". Created by J. Seward Johnson, the statue is of a businessman checking his briefcase. Inside the briefcase, one can see the businessman's notepad, appointment calendar, a cassette tape recorder and pack of cigarettes. As I looked closer, I could see the scratches caused by falling debris. The park, known before the attack as Liberty Plaza Park, was a place where people, many of which who worked at the World Trade Center, went to relax and enjoy a slice of pizza.

The whole place had an eerie pall to it. The last time I felt such a pall was when I first visited Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

It certainly doesn't seem like 9-11 happened 12 years ago. Just as it doesn't seem like 50 years have passed since President Kennedy died.

Time flies while we're having fun. But it's important for it to stand still for just a moment so that we can remember.

About the Author
Donn Frizzi is a well-traveled man, if you consider Pennsylvania to southern Indiana to Texas and finally Peoria to be the definition of well traveled. But in each of his stops he gained certain insights that make him who he is — including a Pirates and Rangers fan who must travel to St. Louis to watch quality baseball without buying a plane ticket. Poetic justice, perhaps? A talented writer, Donn also can make a good point by putting pencil to paper and drawing with satirical splendor. We’re hoping to persuade him to grace our website with an occasional toon, as well.