Sunday, September 11, 2011

Memories from September 11, 2001

Do you remember where you were that fateful morning on September 11th?  I can remember every detail of that day like it is unfolding in front of me right now.  I remember as as child, my mother and grandmother recalling major events in history and how it affected them and where they were the instant that it happened.  I love history but often would wonder out of all the things that has happened in their lives what was it about these events that seemed to take them back to that time as if they were reliving over it again.  My grandmother was a teenager when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  My mother was a teenager when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  I now understand, how a major moment in our history can be recalled in detail no matter how many years have passed.  I still feel all of the emotions that I went through that day, they still feel fresh to me.

My husband was in the Air Force and we were stationed in Colorado Springs.  He was working a night shift and was on his way home when I was on my way to work.  I was commuting to Denver and had a long drive so I missed him at home.  I was six months pregnant with my first daughter and did not like these long commutes, but I settled in to my car and started my trip.  At the time, we lived at the Air Force Academy in base housing.  As I was getting through the gates, I heard on the radio that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.  I could not believe it.  It was thought to be a small commuter airplane or a helicopter.  I called my husband and asked if he had heard the news.  Because he had already left work, he had not heard.  I remember us chatting about how tragic it was and hoped they there were no serious injuries.  We hung up and I kept thinking how awful this accident was.  Twenty minutes later, the DJ stopped the music and said that another plane had crashed into the other World Trade Center Tower.  I could feel my heart beat fast and drop to my stomach.  What on earth was going on?  Surely this could not be another accident.  I called my husband again and he was just walking through the door at our house and had not heard about the second plane.  I kept asking him what was going on and how could this happen.  That was when he told me he thought that these were no accidents and felt that this was an attack.  My insides were so nervous and I immediately thought of my unborn daugther.  I wanted to turn around and go home, climb into bed and wish this day would reboot and none of these events had happened.  My husband and I agreed that I should just continue on to work and he would let me know if anything changed.  

As I got to work, everyone was in the conference room huddled around the television.  As I had only heard of the events, this was the first time that I actually was able to see the terror as it was unfolding.  The fear and uncertainty that all of us felt in that room was thick.  You could not take your eyes off of the television as you watched this living nightmare.  The faces of those people...I can still see them in my mind.  When I saw the first person jump from the window to their death, I actually started to cry.  I could not  imagine the unspeakable horror that they faced that would make them jump from a window so high.  How could this be happening to us?  We live in America where we are safe.  At that point, President Bush made an announcement that we were under attack.  Not long after that, another plane hit the Pentagon.  To me, my safe little world felt shattered.  I thought about my family and friends and how this would effect us.  I called my mother, I am sure like everyone else that day, and told her how much I loved her.  I called my dad, my sisters and anyone else that was not immediately close to me.  I hugged my friends at work and we all sat around the conference table not believing what was happening.

When the twin towers fell that morning, there was an audible gasp by all of us in the room.  I could not help but cry for those who were lost...the firefighters who were so courageous, the people who were trapped that knew they would never be saved, the passengers on the planes who knew their fate, the families of those lost who were left behind to and every American no matter where they were on that day.  Our lives would forever be changed.  The images that followed are etched in my memory forever.  The man that was covered in ash that had barely escaped and kept repeating how the towers had fallen.  The mass panic of those on the ground that ran for their lives to escape the falling debris.  The tears, the fear and the sadness over such a tragedy as every American watched in disbelief.  How could this happen?

When the fourth plane crashed into the field in rural Pennsylvania, I was numb.  I could not handle anymore devastation and decided to go home as did most of the others in our office.  The drive home was somber and quiet.  There were very few cars on the road.  There were no planes in the skies.  I thought of my unborn daughter and what her future would be like now in this world.  What happens if we go to war, would my husband have to leave before our daugther was born?  Would he be in harms way? I felt such hopelessness and overwhelming sadness.  I couldn't even begin to imagine what the families of the lost were feeling.  I remember the songs that were playing on the radio between the commentary.  Jo Dee Messina and Tim McGraw's Bring on the Rain and Lee Ann Womack's I Hope You Dance.  I had been listening to these songs for a couple of weeks, but on this day, they took on completely different meanings.  

As I approached the base, the security was extremely tight.  I was asked to exit my car while dogs searched the outside and the military police did a through search on the inside.  A mirror was brought out and placed under my car so they could search underneath.  I was asked for several forms of ID, where I was going, where did I live, who was my husband.  I was finally allowed to enter and drive directly to my home.  Although it was scary and took a lot of time, I was very grateful that the military was so thorough.  For the first time in hours, I felt somewhat safe.  I was on a military base and there were people there trained to protect us and keep us safe.  I wanted to have my family there with me so we could all be together and stay safe behind the military "walls."  When I finally pulled into my driveway, walked through my front door and hugged and kissed my husband, all of the emotions came out and I cried for what seemed to be hours.  My husband reassured me that we would all be safe and that although our future seemed dim right now, things would get better.  

The rest of the day, and the days that followed, I stayed glued to the television taking in all the details of that day.  There was so much speculation.  Seeing the images of ground zero, the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania.  Hearing the story of true heroism and courage of the passengers and crew on Flight 93 who fought back against the terrorists.  They lost their lives but saved many.  From all of the sadness that we felt from these tragic events, came a feeling of love.  Love for our fellow Americans and love for our country.  People were more kind to one another...we hugged everyone around us.  We loved our family and friends more, our neighbors, our community, our town and our nation.  There was a renewed sense of patriotism.  We prayed more.  We prayed for those who died and those families who were grieving.  We prayed for our President to guide us and we prayed for our country.

Eventually, I turned the television off.  I just could not continue to see the horrific images.  I decided I would live my everyday life and appreciate it more.  I would live my life and remember those who could not.  Two months later in November, we welcomed our daughter, Hailey Annabelle, into the world and although I still felt uncertain about the world she would grow up in, I knew that all would be well.  

Every year on September 11th, I pray for our country, those who died and for the future of my children.  I think the best way that we can remember the lives lost, is to live!

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