But when I saw her again, we were different women than when we earlier stood talking in front of the preschool.
September 11, 2001
It was one of the most beautiful September mornings I can remember. The sky was crystal clear – not a cloud in the sky – just endless, gorgeous blue for as far as the eyes could see. The sun was warm and there was a hint of a breeze. The air smelled so fresh and sweet. Perfection – one of the few days of the year one could actually say the weather was just perfect.
I remember the day so well. It was the beginning of the school year, and our last baby – at age three – had just started preschool. A monumental time in her life as well as mine. After the little ones were settled in their classroom, I chatted with the mom of one of my daughter’s classmates. Our oldest daughters were the same age, and our older sons were friends. We discussed the age-gap of our children. As moms of families with ten-plus years between children, we had plenty of experiences to share. Crazy questions people asked us about age differences; the problems of sharing bedrooms and toys; and how amazingly well the siblings interacted. We found out that we had so much in common – both of us had been active duty military spouses (Navy for her – Army for me). She, herself, had served in the U.S. Navy.
We could have talked all morning, but we both had just a few hours of quiet with our young ones in school, so we parted, knowing we’d catch up again soon.
I saw her less than two hours later. But when I saw her again, we were different women than when we earlier stood talking in front of the preschool. We didn’t know that while we were talking, our country had come under attack.
A few states away, under the same beautiful blue skies, planes flew into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and one crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.
Our lives would never be the same.
Driving home from the preschool, the radio was on, but I paid no attention. I was lost in thought, planning my day. As I pulled up alongside of our house, I heard, “plane flew into tower,” which, obviously caught my attention. I made a beeline to the television, where I sat in horror, shaking like a leaf, as I watched the replay of airplanes flying into the World Trade Center.
This couldn’t be happening. But yet, it was.
Alone in our home, I sat crying as I saw the horror of the morning unfold before my eyes. I was seized by fear, as I couldn’t reach my husband on his mobile phone. None of our neighbors were home. My sister managed to get a quick call into me, and we were in a panic – our parents were on a cruise, and there was no way to reach them at that moment. Every cell phone I tried to call wouldn’t connect. My children’s schools were on lock down. All I wanted to do was get my family home and hover over them.
I didn’t know if they knew what had happened. How would I explain to my babies that our country came under attack?
The quiet I had been craving a few hours ago was now unnerving. I couldn’t stay in the house alone a moment longer, so I drove to my church. Meeting our pastor at the door, he was crying, and said, “I was just there with my family. It’s gone.” A few people gathered in the sanctuary to pray, and then I left to go back to the preschool.
One child home; lunch for her (I couldn’t eat) and then time for her nap. My neighbor left work early, and I had her watch my sleepy preschooler while I walked to the elementary school to get my youngest son. Police escorted the students out of the building – frightening for them as well as the parents. We spoke in whispers – like being at a funeral. My boisterous little boy broke the silence with, “Mommy – look at the cops!” I took his hand and started walking home, trying to act normal.
Our older two arrived home from school, and we watched the coverage and discussed what happened. I think they felt better when their dad arrived home – I know I did. After dinner, we sat out on our front deck. No one was letting their children out of their sight, and we ended up with half the neighborhood gathering in our yard. It was comforting and unnerving. There wasn’t a plane in the sky – very eerie as we lived about two miles from a small airport. I didn’t sleep a wink that night, as I tried over and over to push the day’s events from my mind.
It’s funny how we can remember each detail as to where we were and what we were doing on September 11, 2001. And as awful as that day was, the next few days were met with patriotism and kindness. We were all in this together. Neighbor helping neighbor; stranger helping stranger.
I know I hugged my husband and kids tighter that night. I realized that we aren’t guaranteed a new day – or even a next breath.
A lot has changed in 13 years. My preschooler is in her senior year in high school. She doesn’t really remember what happened that day, other than what she has heard over the years. It is personal and real for my daughter, who is not only a military child – she has a brother in the military, too. She is also in awe that her boss was working in the finance district in New York back in 2001. And by an amazing miracle, he survived the terror attacks – running for his life out of the World Trade Center. A day that he and his family relive over and over with fear and humble gratitude.
As a young child, then a young adult, I never really understood how my dad was able to tell me every year about the Pearl Harbor attack. He was little – just six years-old – and yet remembered the day vividly.
Sadly, I can now relate, as I share my own vivid recollection of that fateful day.
© Lynne Cobb – 2014
Photo note: This flag was dedicated in my dad’s honor on September 11, 2011.
Where were you on September 11, 2001? Are your memories as vivid as the day it happened? Feel free to share in the comments section.