Fourteen years ago on this date, I awoke, deciding not to listen to the morning news. I suppose I was tired of ‘shootings…crimes…rapes…murders…’ all of the ‘if it bleeds, it leads,’ stories. Sipping a fresh cup of coffee, I turned my computer on to write. The screaming phone broke the silence.
My husband asked, “I know you always watch the news, so I wanted you to know we are all OK here.”
“I decided to ignore the news this morning. Whatever are you talking about?”
“Turn on the TV. A jet just crashed into the World Trade Center.”
My heart skipped a beat. Sporadic news reports were pouring in from people sharing cell phone reports, voice mails, and horrors.
“Oh my God,” I remember saying aloud in my home. “This isn’t just an airplane crashing. This is an act of war.”
Never did I realize how true my words were.
Every year on this date of remembrance, I am sad for two reasons. On 9-11-01, the world stopped moving due to the shock of the terrorist attacks in America. On 9-11-02, my mother died – unexpectedly, under questionable circumstances. When I received news of her death, a cold, uncalculated family member said, “She died on 9-11.”
“NOT THE 9-11,” I said.
The morning sun shined brightly on 9-11 in Charleston, SC. While watching the news, I watched the beautiful skyline of New York City turn from a beautiful sky blue, dissolving to a faded gray. Plumes of gray smoke covered the area from a day of beauty to a day of darkness.
Watching the TV, somehow I knew this was not an accidental crash but a premeditated attempt at terrorism. Just how could a jet crash into a historical skyscraper? How?
Reports continued pouring in as another jet hit the other tower. Additional reports included not only the Twin Towers, but a third plane attacked the Pentagon in Washington, D.C, a fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. I thought of Pearl Harbor. I wasn’t alive during the Pearl Harbor attacks. I remembered reading about them in history books, writing projects in school and learning all that I could about Pearl Harbor. I’ve met several World War II veterans, and my husband is a Vietnam Veteran, so the military holds a significant portion of my heart. These attacks seemed to be happening all over the United States. I asked myself, “Is Charleston next?”
I phoned my husband, just to make certain he was safe. He has a government job. No doubt his safety was a great concern. Only two weeks prior to 9-11 he was in a meeting at the Pentagon.
How did I feel on 9-11? Angry. Shocked. Fearful. Just what was happening to our world? I had family members who worked at some of these venues. I prayed they were safe while feeling as if I was a bit selfish. How could I pray for safety when Washington, DC, New York City and an area in Pennsylvania was not safe?
9-11 is an unfortunate, perfect example of how quickly life can change. Thinking back to that date, I imagine someone on the top floors of The World Trade Center. Perhaps an administrative assistant sitting at her desk, reviewing the schedule of events for that date, only to glance up to look out at the view of this amazing structure just in time to see something coming a bit too close. “What is that? No. It can’t be. Planes don’t fly this close…”
Were those her or his last words? We shall never know. Everything happened so quickly. In the blink of an eye, our world changed. We, the stunned viewers of the news could not believe what was happening. I heard people saying, “Oh, this is someone overtaking the media…maybe a computer virus…this cannot be going on in America.”
But – it was…and it did happen to America. For days, we prayed. We joined together to pray for the victims while praying in hopes another victim would be found alive, trapped under the debris.
Days after the terrorist’s attacks began like other days. We planned to go to work, to church, our children would go to school. Although our nation was in mourning, we had to continue living. Truly a hard reality pill to swallow daily. There was a thick air of gloominess in our communities. How could this happen to the United States of America? Why? Just why did our world stop turning?
For days, I was glued to the television. My entire life seemed to revolve on the news. I saw news reports of people jumping out of the buildings. One report mentioned a pregnant woman jumping from one of the buildings, knowing she nor her unborn child would survive.
New York City was covered in a blanket of gray ash and debris. People were running down the streets and bridges in fear for their lives. Airplane flights were canceled and all airlines were forced to land by the federal government. Not only were we in mourning, America was crippled.
Today, 9-11-15, I still grieve for those who died from these dreadful terrorist attacks, and I grieve for my mother. Never did we become close as a mother and daughter, although I tried to resolve the issues of our relationship. On the day of her death, I was extremely ill with Acute Bronchial Asthma. My doctor prescribed Prednisone, resulting in a dangerous reaction that left me a zombie. My husband was in Italy at the time of her death so I could not get to the funeral.
Losing a loved one, including a distant loved one, is unbearable. After my mother died, I felt an emptiness I cannot describe; nevertheless, I learned that we must walk through the grief so we can continue living. Fourteen years after 9-11, America still grieves. Perhaps we are more observant about questionable events. Maybe we are more cautious. Speaking only for myself, I do have the tendency to look carefully and cautiously whenever I am out in the public view. I look behind me. I carry my car keys pointing the tip out, in the event someone attacks me. I suppose I am now more pro-active and prepared while remembering how quickly life can change. Yes, in the blink of an eye our world can change — not necessarily for the better. May God protect us — Everyone.
On 9-11, I burn a candle and pray.