Some days are ordinary. Others are extraordinary, and life changing. And world changing. September 11, 2001 was extraordinary. But for me, it started out oh so ordinary. Kids in school, birds chirping in the trees. My ironing pile had stacked up, and I decided to tackle it. Amanda had a varsity volleyball game that night, and I was so, so excited for her. I had dropped Greg off at school, and he was so excited about his upcoming football game. I was sipping my coffee, and on the phone with my best friend, Robin. I can still smell the aroma of coffee mixed with spray starch, hear the hiss of the iron as it hit the wrinkled shirt. I had the television tuned to the Today show, but the sound was down so Robin and I could chat.
The reality of the enormity of the loss can never fade away. We simply cannot allow that to happen.
I asked my kids what they remembered about that day and my daughter in law Sarah remembered the day:
I can’t tell you much about that day personally. Anytime I am asked, I find myself wracking my brain trying to transport myself back to being 12 and naive about most everything in the world. I can’t for the life of me remember what class I was in, or how exactly how I found out.
The only moments that I can recall are my mom picking me up early from school along with my 2 year old little brother. She did not talk much on that ride. At home, I remember witnessing my mom crying and stepdad pacing the floor as they watched the news coverage of planes crashing into buildings. I was left confused and completely naive to the magnitude of devastation that our country had just endured. A day that changed our nation forever. I remember from then on out everything was different. Teachers spoke more seriously, older kids were talking of joining the military, emotions were running high, and all focus shifted to this new feeling of uneasiness within our country. One thing I will always, always remember, though, is the amount of pure patriotism that emerged. Not only for our country, but for one another. The feeling of camaraderie was unmistakable. In my young mind, I too was “proud to be an American”.
And from my son Greg – who was in the 8th grade at the time:
9/11 is always an odd day to think about in my life. I was in the 8th grade and actually starting to think about the world and my part in it. Obviously I was strongly focused on athletics, football and baseball were my life. My fascination with the Arts were starting to take shape and I absolutely loved music. All of these factors were shaping my outlook about the future and were making me very curious as to what exactly I’d become. Then that day happened…
It was a totally normal day in September. I just turned 14 and was always looking forward to going to school, a strong change from previous years. After a couple class periods, I walked into the library to start my library aide duties. As always, I dropped my bag behind the counter, grabbed a stack of books and started the check in process. Usually, Mrs. Morgan would greet me and let me know if she needed any help with anything, but that day she wasn’t around. I noticed in the side room of the library (a room that was filled with TV’s) that the same thing was playing over and over. It was a helicopter shot of a very tall building with a huge plume of smoke coming out of it. I then spotted Mrs. Morgan standing in the middle of the room frozen. I made my way to her, opened the door, and she immediately said “you shouldn’t see this yet,” and shut the door back. So I decided to just finish my work.
I couldn’t help but think about that building and the large plume of smoke. It was obviously New York because there isn’t a single skyline that looks like that other than NYC. It got me thinking about how it would be possible for a building that large to have a fire that large, it didn’t make sense. Access to cellphones or computers was still very restricted and minimal so I wasn’t able to just instantly look up what I was curious about for answers. Then the tipping point happened for most of us in my 8th grade class. 5th period. U.S. History.
The tardy bell rang and usually without skipping a beat, our teacher would walk in to begin class. 10 minutes later she walked in, it looked as if she had been crying. She told us all there had been a terrible tragedy and it was very very bad. Now, I won’t name names, but there was a student in the class that had a cell phone. It was at that very moment that she stood up and screamed “WE’VE BEEN ATTACKED!” and she ran out of the class. There wasn’t any repercussion from the teacher for this, but all we could do was stare at each other in shock. We all tried our best to go on with class, but it was pretty much over at that point, our curiosities got the best of all of us.
After football practice, I came out from the locker room and was greeted by you, as you always would. There was something different about you and your mood. You were always cheery and happy to pick me up, I always knew that you loved to pick me up. This day you weren’t all smiles, but very strong and serious. You grabbed me by my shoulders and asked me if I was okay. Of course I said yes, but you asked if I knew what had happened. I told you not really, just that some weird things are happening with everyone. You hugged me hard and we got in the car. You told me what had happened but not as if I was a little kid. It meant a lot that you explained it to me blunt and not sugar coated. We all had a deep prayer once Dad got home from work. We ate our dinner and just focused on each other. I could tell we were all a bit afraid of what exactly was happening or going to happen. But what was important was that we were all together and would be together to learn and figure it out.
Several years later, I had the privilege of visiting Ground Zero. There were hundreds of mementos and photographs placed alongside the chain link fence that still surrounded the gaping wound in the ground where the towers once stood. I was overwhelmed at the size of the gaping hole. It felt like holy ground. I hope to visit that spot again, now that a new tower and memorial are there.
John 15:13 King James Version (KJV)
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.