We lived in the western US in 2001. My husband had been on a work detail to Washington D.C. and had returned home a mere 3 days beforehand. We'd arranged it so I could go visit him in D.C. for a week, just before school started, as our oldest was starting 1st grade at the end of August.
We took the metro out to Pentagon City, which has a ginormous mall (might have been the name of the mall. Can't remember). We were going there for the food court. It was rush hour, and we were standing up on the metro. Now, my husband is 6 ft tall, and I'm a short 5 ft. 1 in., and a very tall man in fatigues got on the metro-- he was a good half foot taller than Mr. Laura. I know Mr. Laura told me what rank this man held, but I can't remember (I'm thinking this man was a Col.) -- all I wonder about that man now is if he was there at the Pentagon when the plane hit, and if he was, did he survive?
On 9-11, my husband called me from work and told me to turn on the TV. I was getting our oldest boy ready for school. We were 3 hours behind East Coast time. I took my son to school, which was thankfully a short drive, as I cried the whole way to and from school. At a little after 10 in the morning, one of my sisters called in tears. She demanded I tell her that my husband hadn't been on one of those flights. That was the moment that *it* really hit me--- sure, I'd been horrified and saddened by the events, and while Mr. Laura wouldn't have been on one of those flights anyway, it still knocked me for a loop. There but by the Grace of God. I couldn't stop shaking for the rest of the day, and one of our friends who saw me at the grocery store that afternoon actually called my husband to ask him if I was okay.
When we went to NYC this last spring, we went to Ground Zero after we got back from the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We rode on 3 ferries, of the same line, and they all had a plaque on one wall that commended the ferry boat by name for its service on 9-11 in evacuating people out of Manhattan. At Ground Zero, along one side (north side), there are panels posted above the fencing, that timelines the events of 9-11. A building on the east side of the site was still under scaffolding, still being repaired.
At our hotel , we were given a map of Manhattan, and the WTC Twin Towers sites were marked with one red and one green rectangle, plus corresponding lines marking the flight path of the airplanes that hit them. Our youngest son, then 5 1/2 told us, "The towers fell down." Even he knows something happened that changed the world, even if he doesn't understand.
This morning, my 8 year old asked me why the terrorists hijacked the planes. How do you explain this sort of thing to an 8 year old boy? Or any 8 year old? Not to mention the 11 year old I have running around here, too? So, I told him that the terrorists were fanatics (had to define that), and that they were willing to die for what they believed. We didn't really get beyond that.
Alan Jackson has a beautiful song called "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Spinning)" and there's Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" that put to music the thoughts and feelings that overwhelmed us in the aftermath... and I think still overwhelm us to this day.
So, where were you?