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I had just dropped our older children off at school. At the time, I worked as a part time preschool teacher and that Tuesday happened to be my day off. I was relieved to be off that day because I was so very tired. I remember pulling through the elementary school car pool line earlier that morning and feeling as though I shouldn’t even be driving. I could hardly keep my eyes open. My son and daughter exited the car and entered the school building to start their day. I drove home anxious to get some much needed rest. I remember pulling my youngest daughter out of her car-seat and carrying her into the house. My husband was off that day so I sat my daughter on the floor with a few toys to keep her occupied near my husband who sat in a chair watching The Today Show. While my husband watched the Today Show and my daughter played quietly on the floor, I settled into a comfortable position on the sofa and half listened to the show and half dozed. I seemed to be trapped in that state of mind just before dropping into “sleepy land”. I was resting, but half aware of what was going on around me. I remember the quiet noises of my daughter playing. Her little noises were making their way into my dreams. Then, I remember hearing the news.
I still remember the words “breaking news”. I remember half hearing something about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. I remember thinking, “How awful. That’s terrible,” then drifting off into my half asleep/half awake state again. A few minutes later, I began to become aware of more news. Did I hear that correctly. Another plane? At that point, I sat up to tune in while my husband simultaneously said, “Honey, you might need to wake up and pay attention to this. Something isn’t right.” I agreed.
Suddenly, I no longer felt tired. I wasn’t sure how I felt – nervous, insecure, unsure of what was happening, afraid – all of those things at once. I continued to watch as the first pictures came onto the television screen. I watched the replays of the planes hitting the towers. Immediately, I said to my husband, “That was no accident. That plane veered into the building as if it was on purpose.” He agreed.
As we continued to watch the footage, more news came in. Another plane had crashed into the Pentagon. At that point, we knew. There in that moment, our since of security faded quickly into the blackness of the tragedy we were witnessing. At the time, we didn’t know who was responsible, but we were sure of one thing. We were under attack. I looked down. My three year old daughter sat there playing at my feet. Could we protect her? Would this happen again? It did. As the morning reports continued to flood the media, another plane had crashed into a Pennsylvania field. We wondered where the next plane would hit or if it would be a plane at all – perhaps a bomb? At that moment, who knew? My husband, an ex-Marine, decided that one of us should go get our other two children. We didn’t know what else might happen that day. How long would this go on? What building would be next? What city? Atlanta? Everything was uncertain.
The only thing we knew for certain was that our family should be together that day. Our school aged children were in the first and third grades. We wanted them with us. We wanted to protect them through whatever would come of September 11, 2001. I left to go get our two older children. As the day went on, time seemed to stand still. Would my husband be called back into active service? What would I do with three children all under the age of 7? How would we make it with a military and a preschool teacher’s salary? What would happen to us? What would happen to our country? Suddenly our every day tasks seemed unimportant. It didn’t matter that laundry needed to be done. It didn’t matter that dishes needed to be loaded into the dishwasher or that beds needed to be made. What mattered was that our children were home with us – safe. What mattered was the thousands of people who were dying – their families. All that mattered was what might happen next and how we would protect our family.
What mattered was faith – faith in our omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God.
I REMEMBER THE CHANGE
I remember the look on President George W. Bush’s face that day. He received the news as he sat in a classroom filled with children. I remember Congress that day. I remember how united our Senators and Representatives were, standing on the steps of the Capitol Building as they sang – united. There were no party lines on the Capitol Building steps that day, only Americans. I remember the country adorned with American Flags. Flags flew from almost every home – from porch posts, from windows, from trees, from mailboxes, from apartment buildings, from car door windows, from everywhere a flag could fly. Flags were raised higher, flew and waved more proudly, and Americans everywhere pledged their allegiance. I remember the slogan, “They wanted change, they got it.” Terrorist set out to destroy a nation that day. What they got was a nation united. The “sleeping giant” had been awakened once again.
I WILL REMEMBER
Years later, I still remember. How could one forget? I remember the burning towers. I remember watching one tower fall, then the other. I remember seeing the caved in section of the Pentagon. I remember seeing the scattered remains of the plane that crashed into that Pennsylvania field. I remember the signs people carried, hoping to locate a loved one. I remember the memorials covered with photographs and candles. I remember waiting for reports of survivors as hospitals stocked with supplies and extra doctors, nurses, and volunteers waited to treat thousands. I remember the phone call from my mother. She had asked me to remember a co-worker in my prayers. Her sister worked in the Pentagon. Her sister was never found. I remember the rescue workers – the policemen, the firefighters, and the countless numbers of citizens who risked their lives to save others. I remember the ash. I remember the people on the streets of New York City – covered in blood and ashes. I remember the crying and screaming – the immeasurable grief. I remember watching with shock as I saw people jumping to their death from the windows of the World Trade Center. I remember hearing the reports of the phone calls that were made. I remember the interviews of grieving families as they described their last conversations with their loved ones – loved ones who knew they would not be returning home that day; the phone calls made from the burning buildings and a plane that would never land safely. I’m sure that even after all these years, we have not heard every story.
I will remember.
I will never forget.
Do you remember where you were when the world stopped turning on that September day?