Where were you on that Tuesday morning, 15 years ago?
I was asleep, on a twin bed in Dallas with my toddler’s feet in my face when my husband ran in yelling, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center, get up and come see!” WHAT?
Barely 12 hours prior to being awakened like this I had been aboard an American Airlines international flight from Canada with the toddler, car seat, stroller, carry on and my brother, flying home to Dallas. My husband had picked up this traveling road show at DFW and after a week of sister, nephew, constant noise, chaos and cousins my brother fled home for some peace and quiet. I was stuck with the wild toddler who would not go to bed and had passed out with him in his big boy bed since the cage, I mean crib could no longer contain him. In my sleep deprived state, I thought my husband was talking about the WTC Dallas, a gigantic square building in the Dallas Market Center that in 1963 was hosting a luncheon for a President who never made the date.
As he swatted toddler feet out of my face and grabbed my arm we made it to the living room just in time to see another fire ball and Matt Lauer and Katie Couric questioning two women on the phone if they “saw a plane”.
They got another camera angle and we all saw the plane. It slammed right into the south tower below the smoke billowing out of the north tower. The fireball and paper rained all over Manhattan. My heart was pounding in my throat and I have no idea how long we just stood there in front of the TV, mouths hanging open. I felt sick.
Finally my husband said, “Well I better get to work?” I looked at him like he was crazy, “What? World War Three has just started and your going to work?” He looked back at me, “Well I don’t know what else to do. What are you going to do?” I didn’t know what to do either, what is protocol for the day when the world is coming to an end? I thought about it and said, “Um…. it’s Tuesday! Ladies bible study, I’m going to church?”
“love you too, bye.”
I grabbed clean clothes, toddler, a quick breakfast and just like that we all headed out into a different world.
At church the ladies bible study groups turned into one gigantic prayer meeting as more news rolled in. TV’s were on and cell phones were streaming. Wives of airline pilots and travelers who couldn’t reach their husbands were consoled. Another plane into the Pentagon, the PENTAGON? The sky scrapers of downtown buildings across America were being evacuated. The glorious Twin Towers of New York disintegrated into piles of rubble and ashes. Federal buildings evacuated. My brother works in a federal building but I was able to reach him quickly and let my husband know he was safe. At the dealership they were all standing in front of the TV. Everyone was in shock. Yet another plane down in Pennsylvania that was reportedly headed to Washington D.C. It was surreal, a smoky bad dream.
I picked up the wild child from kiddy care and headed home. Even he was subdued. We were new to Dallas in 2001 and my method of navigation was to follow planes in the sky back towards DFW as a landmark. But the skies were already cleared of planes and eerily quiet. We spent that afternoon sitting on the coffee table in front of the TV, crying as more buildings in the WTC complex collapsed. And that horrible noise, the beeping of firefighter personal safety alarms as more firefighters and police officers frantically searched for surviving brothers and civilians. I made American flag ribbons for my husband’s staff to wear and cried some more. Prayed for survivors to be pulled out of the unbelievable carnage. Went back to church for a special prayer service for our country and watched the President’s speech there.
I pray to never sit on a coffee table crying in front of non stop news of destruction and death. I pray to never spend a week driving around lost because there are no airplanes to follow home. I pray to never feel that this is “it” fear, while I watch my toddler play, blissfully unaware that the world has ended.
But I do wish to have some of that September, return to us. 15 years ago we were all AMERICANS. No bickering over whose life mattered– ALL LIFE mattered. Our police officers and first responders were cheered and praised for the amazing jobs they do, running in where we run out, not counting the cost. And so many, to many, paid for that dedication with their own lives. We showed them the respect they so rightly deserve. I wish the rest of the world was still trembling in fear, knowing that the full might of the amazing military of the United States of America was coming…. I miss seeing our beautiful flag waving from every house, every pole, a beacon of hope for people all over the world. Our flag was treated with dignity and respect and adorned far to many caskets as that September marched on. I miss the feeling of patriotism and community in our country as we celebrated our hero’s, mourned our losses, donated money, time and blood because we were one people, one nation, INDIVISABLE.
Looking at where we are this September, 15 years after that horrible day, I can honestly say there were many good things about that September. And I pray our country gets them back.
This post is dedicated to our all law enforcement officers and first responders.