Where were you?

In some ways, remembering September 12 is more difficult for me than September 11, and that’s really saying something. Waking up on Wednesday morning and for just an instant, feeling like the world was OK, only to have the sinking realization that the world had been turned on its head and there was not a thing that was right. I will never forget waking up that morning. It reminded me of the feeling I have after watching movies in which tremendously awful events occur, making me wonder how those characters could possibly get up the next morning and go on with their lives–what little left of their lives they had, that is. The same thought occurred to me about me, about us, and especially about the countless lives directly affected by the terrorist attacks of the day before. How can they bear to face the next day? How can they possibly go on? Continue to breathe? It boggles the mind.

In the nine years that have passed, my memory had become slowly numbed to the horrors of September 11, 2001, but yesterday morning, I spent some time watching the news clips, as the events unfolded, and listened to recordings from 911 tapes of people calling from inside the burning buildings. It didn’t take long to be back in 2001 and feel the same disbelief, horror, anger, and grief that we had that first day. I can’t imagine how we could forget what we were doing that morning, or when we first heard about the events, and how we spent the rest of the day after seeing the images on any TV we walked by.

I remember that day so clearly. We were living in the duplex at the time, and had three children 3 and under. Brendan was only almost three months old, Patrick was 2, and Hannah was set to turn 4 the next month. While Todd and I got ready that morning we watched TV, and I was struck by the banality of the news of the morning. It didn’t come back to me until later, but as we watched a report about shark attacks and an update on Chandra Levy’s disappearance, I commented to Todd on what a slow news day it was. WOW. It was a gorgeous day, and I needed to go grocery shopping. After Todd left to go to work and the kids had eaten breakfast, I had this creative idea to make our shopping list using cut out pictures from the Meijer’s ad so that Hannah and Patrick could “read” the list and help me shop. We were cutting out and gluing food pictures on paper when Todd called me and told me I needed to turn on the news. He had heard from his friend Kenny that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. I turned it on to see the black smoke and fire raging and was witness to the second plane crash. Stunned isn’t even a word that would fit for me here–I was in denial. Like having the wool pulled over my eyes, the severity didn’t compute for me until the newscaster said “upwards of 50,000 people work in these buildings every day.”

The kids kept working on their project, but it felt like the earth had stopped moving. What was going on? With each passing moment, it got worse. First the one tower. Then the second plane. Then the Pentagon. A collapse?!? How many people did I just see lose their lives right in front of me? The rescuers dying as they rushed UP to get people? The people trapped on the floors above where the planes impacted? Not real. A bad movie. This doesn’t happen.

Anyone who watched it knows how the rest of the day unfolded. The plane in Pennsylvania, the footage of ash and utter devastation. It was like watching a movie, and yet, it was happening in OUR country.

I remember wondering what was really going to happen–not just that day or the next, but in the coming weeks and months. What would change? I worried and prayed for our children and their future. And I couldn’t stop thinking about the families that had been ripped apart, the men and women who weren’t coming home to their families, and those who for whatever reason weren’t where they were supposed to be that morning and somehow weren’t involved. We would see amazing stories of survival, endurance, perserverance, faith, and true heroism. We stood closer to our fellow neighbor for a while after September 11.

And now, 9 years later, have we forgotten? I pray that we haven’t. I know all it takes is for me to watch the video of the second plane hitting again, and it all comes flooding back. I wonder if you, too, can remember exactly what you were doing that morning…

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