Where Were You?
Hello, my lovely Lunatics. Last week was such a busy week that by the time Thursday got here I was already done in. But, I still had so much to do that I nearly failed to stop and take a few minutes to remember what day it was. I did stop, though, and took some quiet time to think about that day. And then, as it does, life moved on. That’s as it should be. Unfortunately, I was unable to do what I had wanted to do in honor of the day. So, today I’d like to take some time to go ahead and have my own, somewhat delayed, memorial. It is not my intention to offend anyone, but to share my feelings and my story. I really would love to hear your stories from you as well. Off we go then.
September 11, 2001. Where were you the day the world as we knew it changed? Were you sleeping in late? On your way to work? Were you in the shower, or eating breakfast? Maybe you were about to end your shift, or about to start one. I had just dropped Sean off at Pre-School. Just that statement gives me chills. My oldest baby, my soon-to-be-an-adult-but-still-my-baby son, was 4, about to turn 5, and he had just started Pre-School only two weeks before. Lock was 2. We had just moved into a larger 3-bedroom, 2-bath apartment one month before. That day began like the other days had: get Sean up and dressed, get his breakfast, make his lunch, hope Lock stayed asleep through it all because he wanted to go to school with Sean, get Sean out the door and fight the lunatic school traffic to drop him off. Then, back home. The elementary school was just a five minute car trip each way-15 minutes total depending on whether someone would decide that traffic laws don’t apply to them and go up the one-way street at the wrong time of day or not.
Once home and Lock was eating his own breakfast, I turned on the tv. It had been left on one of the network stations from the night before so, the morning news was showing. I saw the picture on the tv of a buidling that was burning. One of the World Trade Centers. Black smoke billowed from the windows and yellow-red smoke licked at the walls. You could actually see the flames inside the building. It’s really sad how desensitised we have become these days. We see things like this on tv and the first thought that runs through our minds might be how it doesn’t even look real. Then, it hits you as you listen to the commentary. A plane has crashed into one of the World Trade Center buildings in New York. That’s when you start thinking about how it happened. Was there a fault in the plane’s engines? Did a pilot have a heart attack or did the navigation systems fail? To this day, I still remember Christa McAuliffe and the tragedy of the shuttle flight which happened when I was just a child. Was this a similar event? What was going on? Then, the world held its breath as we watched another plane coming into view…and a collective gasp was breathed as we watched that plane fly deliberately into the other Trade Center building.
My mind went blank. I could not believe what I had just seen. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the tv but I suddenly felt unsafe. Tears filled my eyes and I remember hugging Lock to me and holding him in my lap. When my brain was able to think without the shock, I knew it was a terrorist attack. There had been a bombing in 1993, if you remember, but this…this was something else entirely. I remember walking outside at some point and then coming back in. I was supposed to pick Sean up around 11:30 a.m. but I wanted him at home safe with me. I didn’t go get him although I did learn that other parents had picked up their little ones. In fact, the school was allowing parents to pick up their children early if they wanted to. By that time, however, the world watched as people jumped from the windows, one bulding collasped, a plane crashed into the Pentagon, and we heard that another plane over Pittsburgh had crashed. The world had exploded into a surreal reality. It couldn’t be real. It just couldn’t. It had to be some kind of joke,right? I mean, it had to be some production company filming a movie. This just couldn’t happen. Then, the other building collapsed and the Manhattan skyline was changed forever.
For as long as I live, I will never forget that day, or the week that followed. I live in a pretty highly ethnic section of my city. It’s very diverse with more Tongans and Hawaiians than any other area. But, in 2001, there were as many Muslims as any other culture, and I literally lived across the street from a Mosque. The week that followed the attacks ended up being as surreal as the day of the actual event. The air above was eerily empty and quiet. You see, I also lived ten minutes away from the Dallas International Airport. The roar of the engines leaving and arriving were the lullabies, the white noise, my kids fell asleep to every night. It was the hum of the refrigerator that you don’t notice until the power goes off. It was creepy. But people everywhere were calmer. They took care to be nice to one another. We went out of our way to show that we knew not every Muslim held the same opinions as the terrorists. And the Muslims in our area, the ones I knew at least, were just as saddened by the loss as anyone else. We heard about some of the other surrounding cities that were having problems with fear and Muslims being attacked because of that fear. But it didn’t happen in our area. All our kids went to school with each other. We talked after school while waiting for our kids, and we talked in the grocery store when we ran into one another there. Everyone was scared and sad and confused, and angry.
I’m not going to get into the politics of the thing. To me, it isn’t as important now as it was then. Around three thousand people died. Those responsible were caught or killed. In a way, I guess you could say justice was done. But to say that it can make up, in any way, for the lives lost and the security and the freedoms that have since been taken away from us would be a lie. We are no more safe today than we were then, but we can’t let fear take away more freedom from us. We move forward, Life moves forward, and Time keeps pushing us into tomorrow. We can’t take anything for granted these days, and simple kindnesses should be appreciated and encouraged.
A few years after the attacks, I wrote a story about it. At the time, there was only talk about the memorial to be built in NYC. I was fortunate enough that I didn’t know anyone who had been killed in the attacks. A good friend of mine who lives in New York was not killed. But the six degrees of separation were involved that day. I had friends who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The story I wrote was for one of those friends and her loved one that died. I uploaded the story to my writing group’s online folder so they could read it. I had gone back through and updated all of the information before sending it online so my facts should be correct. I want to share that story with you today. I don’t intend on ever publishing it so I am putting the whole story online for you to read. With this post being long enough I will only add the link to the page the story is on. My wish is that it touches your heart, that it speaks to you in some way. For my writing group, it took them back to that day, and was hard for some of them to get through. It is not a final draft, and there may be some errors. It may never have a final draft because it was hard for me to go through it the first couple of times. But that’s alright. That day is an ongoing thread in the tapestry of our future. My personal story of that day is just one of millions, and those are more moving, though no less personal to the people they belong to. Sean told me recently that he remembers that day, too, though Lock does not. That day affected the world and the generations to come. It will be in history books long after our kids and grandkids have lived. We need to keep an eye to our future but never forget the past and what it has cost us.
With my sincerest respect and deepest love,