Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)
I Believe - A 9-11 Tribute (You WILL need a tissue for this)
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I lived in a rural Northern Nevada town, I had 3 children 6 years old and younger. My baby was literally still a baby, having just barely turned 1 that summer. It was just after 7 in the morning, and we were up, getting the oldest fed so I could take him to school. The boys had the Cartoon Network on, I was making breakfast.
In other words, it was a typical morning for us.
Chaotic, loud, happy.
Then the phone rang. It was my husband. He works for Uncle Sam. We aren't a military family, but we are a gov't worker family. He asked if the television was on. I laughed. "Of course it's on. We're watching something stupid on the Cartoon Network."
He suggested I turn on the news.
And I did.
The South Tower was smoking, and the amateur video someone had shot of the airliner going into the side of the tower was being replayed. We knew nothing, didn't know what the hell was happening, just that we were being attacked.
It's really damned hard to drive when you can't see through the tears. I can't imagine I was the only numb, frightened, horrified parent dropping a kid off at school that morning. I made the loop to the school and got home as fast as I could. Saw that my younger sons were fed and occupied elsewhere, and back to the television I went.
I saw more replays. I watched the Towers fall.
Again, numb. Horrified. Shocked.
My husband called to say that as the highest ranking manager at the office that morning (and he was nowhere near the top of that ladder), he'd had the responsibility of locking down the facility. He came home by noon.
At around ten in the morning, my sister, Lisa, called. I think by then, the Pentagon was burning and I couldn't honestly tell if you if the plane had gone down in Pennsylvania yet or not. Lisa was in tears and demanded I tell her that my husband hadn't been on one of those planes.
You see, my husband had just returned from a month-long detail, working in Washington D.C. I'd gone out to spend a week with him, just before school started for our oldest son, there at the end of August. He came home on September 8th. He didn't fly out of any of the airports the hijackers did, but he came home on an American Airlines flight. That was too close for comfort for me. While my heart was breaking and I was grieving for the victims and their families, the notion he could've still been in D.C., could've (but not at all likely) been on one of those planes turned my knees to rubber.
I kept the news on, of course. Doesn't matter the channel. Like every other American with a TV set and good reception, I watched the horror unfold, replay, be analyzed all day long. At one point, I remember being in the little hallway off my kitchen, on my way to the laundry room. Life had to go on, I had little boys, I had laundry to do. I heard the replay of one of the planes crashing into one of the Towers. I leaned against the wall, eyes closed, shaking and sobbing as quietly as I could so as not to alarm my 3 year old and 1 year old, as I mourned for all the innocents who lost their lives. For the families who lost loved ones, for the husbands and wives so brutally widowed, the children monstrously orphaned, for parents who heartbreakingly lost children. The hurt overwhelmed, took up residence in my heart, in my soul.
Life had to go on for us as more perished, the Towers fell, all incoming flights into the US were diverted and all in-country flights were grounded. The president was in the air somewhere on Air Force One, the vice-president and others were relocated to safer places. I had young children to take care of, a household to keep moving along...it's so hard to be normal when the world has gone insane and is standing on its ear.
After my husband came home and we'd fetched our oldest from school, I went to the grocery store. Along with half the population of the town in which we lived. We had no idea, still, what the hell was going on, just that we were under attack by, at that time, unknown forces. Who knew what resources would become scarce? Best to stock up for the unknown---and boy, was that unknown terrifying! We talked with our families, our friends. Learned from a neighbor that there would be a candlelight prayer service at church that night. I went while my husband stayed home with the boys. I cried through that. The thing that replayed over and over in my head was that my husband could've been there. Now, of course, no, he wouldn't have been on one of those flights, they originated at other airports, not the one he flew out of to come home, and he wouldn't have been at the Pentagon, either--no logic or reason for my thoughts, but who was having logical, reasonable thoughts that day, anyway? There was no rational explanation for my fixation, it simply was. And ached for the victims who'd lost their lives, and for their loved ones left behind who would have to deal with their absence.
The following year, my husband got a job, same outfit, in D.C. We arrived on September 11, 2002. We took up residence in Maryland. We visited the Smithsonian museums, where we, along with many others, walked silently through the little room in the American History Museum, looking at the artifacts from 9-11. Twisted bits of steel that had been part of what held the Towers up. Battered FDNY helmts, coats. Pictures. Audio recordings, videos. We stared at the flag found at the Pentagon. I don't remember which entrance it was on, I wanna say the Mall side, but I'm not sure. The first time we flew home to Nevada for a visit with the family, my heart pounded the entire way. I was scared spitless. Flying cross country like that scared me every time we did so.
In 2007, we visited New York City. Like all tourists, we went to Liberty Island. The ferries we took to Liberty Island, then Ellis Island, then back to Manhattan all had plaques thanking the ferry line and the boat by name, for their service that horrible day in 2001, when they'd ferried people out of New York City. The skyline was empty, the Twin Towers such an obvious absence. And when we finished our tour, we walked through Battery Park, saw a twisted piece of art that a plaque posted near it, along with an eternal flame, said it was what was left of the art that had sat between the Towers. We walked up to Ground Zero. Looked through the chain link fence at the gaping footprints of the Towers. Read the timeline posted above the fences. Yes, we took pictures. How could we not go pay homage when we were there? How could we not feel like we stood on hallowed ground? How could anyone?
A couple years after 9-11, I asked my Grandma if Pearl Harbor had been as frightening for her generation as 9-11. She said, "Every bit as much." She was a very young child during the World War I years, she grew up in the prosperous '20's, she was married during the Great Depression, had my mother shortly after the US entered WWII, had my aunt during those first years of the Baby Boom that followed the end of the war. Her youngest brother served in Korea. She became a grandmother for the first time during the Vietnam Era and for the last time during the Reagan years. She saw man go to the moon. She remembered the day Kennedy was assassinated. I hope to God that I won't be asked by a future grandchild if "Event B" was as scary to me as 9-11 had been.
We have been watching the numerous shows on television about 9-11, the memorial to be unveiled, the events of the day...And it is interesting to watch my boys and how they react. They don't remember living in a pre-9-11 world. I mourn that loss of innocence for them, but by the same token, while they find it horrifying, it's not the same for them as it is for me. They know that terrorists flew airplanes into the Twin Towers, into the Pentagon, and that one plane went down in a field in Pennsylvania...but it doesn't hurt them the way it does for those of us who remember the day as it unfolded. It's a burden they don't need---it's bad enough they've had to grow up in this insane post-9-11 world.
It is my fervent hope, wish, dream and prayer for not just the United States, but for the entire world, that we may somehow find peace in my lifetime. I'm not holding my breath, as we humans seem to be more inclined to focus on our differences, rather than those things that make us the same.
I would like to end this introspective with one last thing...To all our servicemen and women who answered the call in the days and years after 9-11...THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE. Only God Himself knows the true depth and scope of what you've done and because of ya'll, we can all be proud to be Americans. Bil P, and all serving and retired military: This is for you - God Bless the USA.