Friday, September 9, 2011

Just Another Day: 9/11/01

This week our nation remembers the tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001 when the United States was attacked by terrorist and nearly 3,000 people lost their lives. Most of us remember where we were on that fateful day that changed our lives, the country and the world. That beautiful September morning, I was pregnant and taking a non-fiction creative writing class at a local community college. My daughter was in kindergarten and my husband was a national correspondent for the New York Times. In remembrance of September 11, 2011, I am sharing with you what I wrote a few days after the tragedy for my creative writing class.

Do you remember what you were doing that day?

September 13, 2001

It was just another day. I woke up at 6:30 like every other weekday morning and prepared to take my daughter to school. Breakfast. Brush teeth. Throw on some sweats and a sweatshirt and head out the door. My husband told me to wait. He was going to ride with me this morning. Great, I thought. He can put some air in my car tire.

I dropped my daughter off at school and kissed her goodbye. We stopped at a gas station, filled the tire with air and the tank with gas. When we arrived home, our biggest concern was installing a new mailbox. That soon changed.

The phone rang. “Who could this be?” I thought. It was my mother-in-law.

“Are you watching T.V.?”

“No. We just got in from school. What’s going on?”

“The World Trade Center is on fire.”

Immediately, we turned on the television to see a gaping black hole, smoke and fire. Then another plane came into view and slammed into the other building. It looked like a terrible horror movie, but it was real. Last summer at this time, I was living in New York, walking down the streets with my daughter. Immediately, I thought of all the people on the street who would be killed by flying debris. I saw the people hanging out of windows and wondered how would rescue workers ever make it up so far to rescue them. I hear of people jumping out of the window and tears started to fill my eyes.

I ran upstairs and turned on another television and my husband and I traded information back and forth while flipping between channels, trying to find out what was going on. More and more bad news kept coming. The phone rang. My husband, a reporter, might have to go to Boston. The phone rings again. No planes are going anywhere. A friend calls. My mother calls. Has anyone heard from our New York City family? Adrian works in the financial district. Does he work in the World Trade Center?

Then there’s more bad news. A plane has crashed into the Pentagon. My husband and I can barely stand.

“Oh , my God. Elder Allen works in the Pentagon,” my husband said. We called our friends in Virginia. Our friend, an assistant to the Marine commandant, was working in Quantico, Va.

The tears kept coming. Then there was disbelief. Should be pick up our daughter? What’s going to happen next? Wouldn’t it be better to have her with us at home? Maybe we’re overreacting. We go to the school and sit in the parking lot. A police squad car is parked in the front, but everything else looks normal. The flag is flying. The sky is still blue—just another day.

We go back home and stay glued to the television. Another plane crashes in a field in Pennsylvania. There’s talk about an act of war. I call the school. Some parents have picked up their children. I decide to bring my daughter home. She runs to greet me. She smiles without a care in the world. We go home and she watches “Arthur.” You can’t tell a 5-year-old the world has turned upside down. Terror, death, hijack and war are not in her vocabulary.

I stay in my sweats all day, transfixed by the horror gripping our country and hoping to find out any new information. I pray that people had a chance to leave the building before they collapsed. I dig out my photo of the skyline of New York, taken from the harbor on the way to the Statue of Liberty and think they’re not there anymore, but it still doesn’t seem real. The tears come and go with each tragic story.

It was just another day. It was just another day for someone who went to work that morning, maybe dropped their daughter off at school and headed to work. It was just another day for a person boarding an early morning cross-country flight, eager to kiss their babies. It was just another day, but after this day, no other day would ever be the same.

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