Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What Do You Remember About 9/11?

Tomorrow is the anniversary of a bitter moment in American history. September 11. My son was asked by his teacher to interview me about what I remember from the day and then he and his classmates will discuss. Seems like a good way for the fourth grade set to approach such a traumatic happening.

This assignment caused me to dig out my mom's binder of emails from that time period and read through the messages shared within my family circle. So many nuances of the tragedy had been tucked away, wrapped in the tissue paper of a busy mind and stuffed in the back of my memory for safe keeping.

I had been in New York and New Jersey for a work conference prior to that fateful day. In fact, two days before I had floated on the Hudson River with a stunning view of the autumn moon juxtaposed near the Twin Towers. It was so peaceful and gorgeous. Everyone in my group commented on the scene. Too bad we weren't all armed with cell phone cameras then.

My early afternoon flight home on September 10, 2001 was marred by several unusual and chaotic experiences at the Newark International Airport. First a delay, then all flights were held because of a combination of weather and a rumored fire somewhere outside of the terminals. Eventually my flight was cancelled. While I stood in line to be rerouted on another flight, I called the airline customer service line from my trusty (and giant!) flip phone. I was rewarded with a new flight home and hours to kill before boarding. Others from my original flight were sent to hotels for the night and rerouted on flights out the next morning (I've often wondered how many of them were able to leave on early morning flights before all air travel shut down...and how many were trapped there in the heart of so much tragedy).

As I poured over the emails in my mom's old binder, I was reminded that when my flight finally departed our captain told us that there were 65 planes on the tarmac behind us and that he really didn't know how many would get out that night -- apparently the weather was still backing up departures. The flight I was on was traveling from Newark to Detroit and then on to Seattle. This journey seemed strangely ominous the next morning when one of the four planes came from Newark on a long distance flight.

Because of the series of events and delays, I took the next day off work. I didn't get home till nearly 3 am and I needed my beauty sleep! So, I was home when Rick heard on the radio that the first plane -- although no one knew that it was a plane initially -- hit one of the World Trade Center Towers. He woke me up and we turned on the television and watched in horror as the second plane hit and then the third plane hit the Pentagon and the fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania.

As rumors flew on live television, I dashed for the phone to call my mom. She knew where I'd been, but wouldn't know that I was safely home.

Reaching out to those you love and comforting and reassuring them is a solid story line through the family email messages that my mom dutifully printed and saved in her binders. We were all checking in with each other. Sharing our experiences...confirming that we were safe..expressing our love. I imagine that it wasn't just my family who did that at the time. I like to think that in the face of unexpected horror, we all found a way to get back to the basics and focus on those we loved.

At the heart of it all, we prayed. We cried. We connected with loved ones near and far. We remember what was important to us. We loved. And, we got on with the business of being citizens of an incredible and proud country. God Bless Us All. God Bless America.