“Where were you when the world stopped turning, that September day?” – Alan Jackson
Where was I on September 11, 2001? Dropping my youngest daughter off at preschool. My memory of that day is as clear and crisp as the weather was that morning.
It was a perfect day, and I found myself lingering outside, chatting with a friend. Her youngest son was in my daughter’s class, and her older son was a classmate of my oldest son. We shared so much – even the fact that we had been military spouses. We spoke of how we were blessed to be military spouses during peaceful times, excluding a brief stint during Desert Storm.
Our conversation stopped only because of our need to accomplish our morning routines while the little ones were in preschool. Our time was precious – the hours would tick quickly between drop-off and pick-up. If we wanted to accomplish anything, we’d have to leave now and continue to chat later.
I jumped in my van, half-listening to the news. A plane crashed in New York. Sad, but nothing too odd, I thought, except that Bryant Gumble was on air. Hmmm, I thought, it must have been a big crash, because it was all I heard on every station. I stopped pushing the buttons, and eventually shut off the radio. I did continue to ponder why a TV host was live on the radio.
Being gone a little longer than I planned, I had messages waiting for me when I got home; more than usual. Putting down my purse, the phone rang. I was interrupted by a hysterical call from my sister, who shouted, “Put on the TV! We’re under attack!”
What? I still get goosebumps from that slice of memory.
Grabbing the remote, I put on the TV. In disbelief and horror, I changed the station. Over and over each broadcast showed the same thing: a plane blowing through the World Trade Center. In shock, I saw the camera replay as plane number two sliced through the other tower.
My head was spinning, reeling, trying to process this? Are we at war? Who did this? Who is next? Do I go get the kids from school? I couldn’t reach my husband on his cell. I wanted to turn this off, but I was drawn to the images coming in from New York.
Not wanting to be alone, I left and sought sanctuary at the church we attended. My pastor was there, and we grieved with others who also sought refuge and wanted to pray. I had never seen this man as disheveled as he was at that moment. He and his family had recently vacationed in Washington D.C. and in New York. He was stunned, reeling like everyone else.
The surrealism of the day continued into the evening, where our front porch began to fill with neighbors, friends and family, several whom were veterans. We all tried to make sense of the day. Located not too far from a small airport, the stillness of the silent skies added another layer of surreal to the day.
The smell of coffee, beer and cigarettes permeated the air, and we were getting updates from folks driving by, sharing their experiences of waiting in long lines at gas stations and grocery stores. We kept a very watchful eye on our kids. Nothing felt safe anymore.
Surrounded by so many people, yet feeling so very alone. I think we all felt that way.
No one could comprehend at that moment how our lives would change forever. How we would cling to each other. That we would find the love for our nation that seemed buried. That pettiness would be shoved aside for the greater good.
I wouldn’t have dreamt that, because of that day, I would become a military spouse with war zone experience. Or that because of that day, I would be one of many military moms losing sleep because their baby was in a foreign land, defending our nation.
I wouldn’t have dreamt that, because of that day, here, 11 years later, we are a nation so divided politically that it breaks my heart. Like we forgot how to be united. Friendships are being taxed by the divisiveness. Warring words from political camps and pundits fill the airwaves like a continuous assault.
If I could pick one blessing that came from that tragedy on 9/11, it would be that we, as a nation, stopped the bickering. That we raised our flags and helped where ever we could. That we were united.
As a military wife, as a military mom, and most importantly, as an American, I pray fervently for God to bless America, and that we remember how just how good it can be here in this country when we are a nation – united.