It’s been eleven years since that terrible and horror-filled day when terror struck our nation. It’s been eleven years of remembering…. eleven years of sadness… and eleven years of trying to make sense of a series of senseless acts. There have been movies made, documentaries filmed, and stories told… yet we’ll never be able to fully explain the importance of this day. The depth of connection varies so much from person to person that we each have our own memories of that fateful day…
For me, it was a typical Tuesday morning. I had sent both boys off to their respective schools (D was in Middle School-6th grade and E was in Elementary-4th) and was settling in for the morning. I knew we had football practice that evening and M had been away in Dallas for a few days of travel for work. He was due to fly home that evening, so I was slowly starting my day.
I had the Today show on in the background when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. They cut into the news feed on TV and were dissecting the situation when the second plane hit… and that’s when all hell broke loose. Information, however spotty and inaccurate, was being shared as quickly as it came into the stations. Flipping from station to station was useless. No one had the proprietary rights over the story at that point, so everyone was just talking…incessantly and mindlessly talking… as if their words would in some way explain what had just happened.
The plane hitting the Pentagon came next. M and I heard later that some former USNA soccer players we knew had felt the plane overhead as it approached and then crashed into the Pentagon…. they were stationed at the Annex and closest to that carnage. Shortly after, the plane crashed in PA… and then, for me, the doorbell rang.
My next-door neighbor’s wife had family in the Northern Virginia area. Like me, she had been watching the news while feeding her young son, but her reaction to this tragedy was much more visceral. She couldn’t reach her family on the phone and she was frantic. Rather than waiting to hear more news regarding the current situation, she felt that she had to see her family. While I knew my boys were safe in their schools, she had no idea if her mom and sister were involved or safe. As crazy as it seems looking back on the situation now, she HAD to get up to Arlington…. it was a deep-seeded urge that compelled her to be present with her family. She needed me to watch her son and explain her absence to her husband while she attempted to reach them in the middle of the chaos. There was no question, at that moment, what I needed to do… I simply took her son from her and wished her God Speed. I then sat down with him and began to pray. (Note: while it took my neighbor many hours to reach her family, she was blessed to find that no harm had come to them)
While my friend was putting her fear into action, there wasn’t much I could do. My husband was in Dallas and had called just after the second plane hit. He and his boss had already checked out of their hotel, so they got their rooms back and extended their stay until they could better evaluate the situation and come up with a workable situation. I was loathe to have them take a flight back from Dallas… I could rationalize that there was little chance of another plane being hijacked, but the point was moot… all flights were grounded, and would be for days. To say that I was grateful for cell service is an understatement… hearing his voice any time he called was a balm to my soul. It meant that he was safe… even if he was hours and days away from me.
Late in that first day, a man from ADT stopped by my house (our development was pretty new at that point) and, while I’d held things together pretty well up to that point, I lost it on him. My husband was OOT… I was there alone with my kids… he needed to go away and go away NOW. I was not diplomatic… I was not controlled and kind… I was pissed. How dare he come by and imply that having a security system installed in my home would somehow make all this horror and fear go away. I was definitely not a fan of his tactic… and was not shy about telling him how I felt at that moment.
Over the coming days, the stories came in… photos were posted… more and more information was shared regarding each plane’s trajectory and velocity and weight and… and… and… and… it just didn’t seem to end. Taking solace in the little things suddenly became very important. Gathering with other families during the boys’ football practice on Wednesday night was helpful… just talking with other adults made such a difference in my outlook.
In the end, there was nothing I could do. I could only pray and lean on God… I could provide a strong place for my boys to rest their own concerns… and I could wait for my husband to come home. I knew I was blessed.. my husband was, indeed, coming home. He and his boss had kept their rental car and began the long trek home. Even the inconvenience that M hadn’t brought his car charger and his phone was about to lose power wasn’t important. He was driving home to me and would be home as soon as he could physically make the drive. In the midst of horror and tragedy (and as embarrassingly selfish as this statement will come out) the only good thing I could see was that M was coming home to me.
It’s fitting, somehow, that I have the opportunity to spend today with my beloved M. September 11th will forever be a day that lives in infamy. There is no true “silver lining” or “good that comes from bad” when referring to the events of September 11, 2001, but I don’t think we can discount that our country, and her citizens, became a little more patriotic… and little more appreciative of the blessings with which we live.
As I sit here, at the Navy-Marine Corps stadium of the United States Naval Academy, I’m surrounded by reminders of our military presence and participation in and around the world. Across from the press box, the words, GO NAVY, are visible on the second deck of seats, Battles from Marianas, Philippine Sea, Peleliu, Leyte Gulf, Lingayen Gulf, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Battle of the Atlantic, North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, Normandy, and Southern France are listed along the front of the lower deck.
Being here on September 11th, somehow feels right to me. The men and women who graduate from this amazing place are those who will endeavor to defend our country when terror and evil tries to take over. We must continue, without the need for another horrific event such as happened on 9/11/01, to support their brave decision to put themselves in harm’s way for our sake. Those who stand for justice, honor, and goodness, no matter what military or service branch are answering a higher calling. September 11th should be a day to remember those who died, but it should also be a day to honor those who follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before… much like Memorial Day. Let’s not give evil any more time in the spotlight…
Oh… and remember that ADT guy that I unloaded on earlier in this story? He came back by our house on Saturday morning, after M had returned home. He started his conversation to me with “I see your husband got back home… would you like to discuss a security system now that he’s back?” My response to him was so visceral in its own way that it’s really not fit to print. Let’s just say that he’s never EVER been back to our house to ask about installing an ADT system.