15 Years Ago…

 

United States #B2 (2002) full pane

United States #B2 (2002) full pane

Fifteen years ago — September 11, 2001. I was living in the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A. Nearby my home was a major U.S. Air Force Base and one of the main air traffic control routing centers covering the entire American Southwest. Secure locations at the best of times. My mother had passed away following a lengthy illness just two weeks prior. I had returned from the funeral in Kansas a couple of days before. I hadn’t yet returned to my job as manager of a Wendy’s Hamburgers restaurant.

The morning of 9/11, I’d awoken early as usual. I don’t remember why, but I needed to buy something at Wal-Mart so I hopped into my grey Ford Festiva shortly before 8 a.m. for the the short journey to the store. I recall being dismayed that not a single radio station was working. Entering the shop, I noticed everyone gathered around the television monitors suspended from the ceiling in the electronics department. I saw the smoke billowing out of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. My initial thought was that this was a trailer for a new movie. As I watched, the second tower exploded flame and smoke. People screamed. I could hear the shocked voice of Katie Couric, the co-host of “Good Morning, America”, stating that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center and this appeared to be an act of terrorism.

Numb, I watched several minutes of replays before exiting Wal-Mart. My drive home was eventful as the four-corner intersection adjacent to the FAA complex was in the process of being shut-down. I observed at least one fighter jet from the Air Force base flying overhead. The next days were a blur as I remained home and sat transfixed in front of the TV. It was there that I witnessed the collapse first of the South Tower and then the North. I’d just lost my mom, and my emotions were raw. Getting rawer every passing minute.

Most of the events that followed are now but a blur to me, nothing really in focus. I do recall feeling a real sense of patriotism a month or so later as the American flag began to be displayed from every home, office, and numerous vehicles as well. A trip to Europe about a year-and-a-half later saw many people expressing their sympathies towards me once they found out that I was American. Around this time, I discovered that my cousin Doug — as an officer of the New Jersey State Police — had been involved in recovery operations at Ground Zero in New York. We lost him, too. I was informed of his death while in London for my 40th birthday party.

Indeed, that period was one of death touching me more than ever before — my mother, her mother and then her father, my dad’s brother and then his mom, and then my cousin Doug. Not to mention the 2,977 innocent victims of the 9/11 attacks and the 19 hijackers. It took me a while to recover; I doubt if the nation ever will fully recover.

Scott #B2 was only the second semi-postal stamp ever issued by the United States (the first had been released in 1998 to aid cancer research). Issued on June 7, 2002, the stamp had an original face value of 34 cents, plus a surtax of 11 cents for assistance to the families of emergency relief personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty in connection to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This was increased to 37 cents + 8 cents on June 30, 2002. The self-adhesive stamp reproduces a photograph of firemen raising the U.S. flag atop the rubble of the World Trade Center. It was printed by lithography in sheets of 20 stamps with a serpentine die cut measuring 11¼.

UPDATE (16 September 2016)

United States #B2 (2002) MI single

United States #B2 (2002) MI single

Single with partial lower-marginal inscription — purchased on eBay and received in Thailand on 15 September 2016.

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