Remember, remember the 11th of September when airplanes, terrorists and plots. I see no reason why the attacks should ever be forgot. Yes, that is a twist on the Guy Fawkes rhyme, but I think it’s appropriate in its own way this morning. I have witnessed several disasters in my life, including watching the television when the Challenger exploded during takeoff during my middle school science class. I remember the frightening images of the Waco compound burning. I remember being in New York in 1993 when explosions rocked the World Trade Center from bombs in the parking garage. I remember staring at the television in horror during the aftermath of the Federal building bombing in Oklahoma City.
Yet, as keenly as I remember all of these days, those memories pale to the clarity and sharpness with which I remember September 11th, 2001. I was home that morning. My daughter, just 10 months old was up and playing. My mother-in-law, sister-in-law and just 2 year-old nephew who were visiting were packing their suitcases getting ready to head to Dulles Airport, just 5 minutes from our home for a flight around noon to return to Texas. It should be noted that my mother-in-law often left very early in the morning if she were visiting us without my sister-in-law and nephew, and thus if she’d been without them – she would have gotten on a flight at 7 or 8 that morning.
The Tears are Still Fresh
I was cleaning the kitchen when my phone rang. It was my husband. He said something happened in New York – he wasn’t sure what it was, but since he knew I had friends there – he suggested I go turn on the television. I carried my daughter upstairs and we flicked on the television. The next hour is like this frozen place in time as I watched the live news reports beginning to unfold. I remember my mother-in-law coming upstairs to ask me something and she fell quiet as she too was watching.
We saw the second plane strike the World Trade Center and I remember the feeling of surreal horror. Then the confusion in the news as reports came in that a plane struck the Pentagon. A friend of ours was working there and the circuits were jammed – no calls could reach anyone. I looked at my mother-in-law at one point and said flatly “You’re not flying home today.”
She nodded in agreement and went downstairs. An hour later, my husband came home and I was still watching the news reports – the towers collapsed and all I remember doing is crying. I could not imagine a world where what I’d just seen could be possible – even having seen what I had seen.
The Quiet After the Storm
Even as the news reports continued to come in and we heard about United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania – there was something else happening right around us. It was quiet – the silence – almost eerie. We lived so close to the airport that the sound of planes was a natural background noise. The orders came in to ground the planes and that silence – it was probably the worst sound I heard that day. It would be hours before we heard that our friend at the Pentagon did indeed survive. Still hours more before friends in New York were located – one who was fortunate enough to have broken her heel on her way to work – and that kept her from being near the World Trade Center.
There were stories, speculations and reaction. It was an awful, awful time and yet I have never been more profoundly grateful to have my family right there within reach and I’ve never been more proud of being an American. My heart goes out to all the families who lost someone then and since. My daughter asked me this weekend, why did I look so sad when I was watching a news report that reflected back on September 11th – she was so young when it happened that she has no memory of it and for that I am grateful as well.
I will be sharing more stories from September 11th and the days that followed. If you have a story to tell, please share it. Sherry was right when she said that September 11th united us as a people; as Americans. She was right. Because on that day and the days that have followed – our differences were not what highlighted our interactions – it was our pride in who are as a people – a place where being different is acceptable and being an American is about being an individual.
I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation under God, indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all.
Remember, remember the 11th of September.