Monday, September 12, 2011

Where I Was When the World Stopped Turning...

This morning, I woke up in a hotel room in Kentucky, and thought, "hmm, maybe I'll go swimming in the pool." I nudged the hubs, and we made a few motions towards getting up, and getting ready. Then I looked at the clock. I paused. I looked at the hubs.

"You ready to go?"
"Honey, look at the time."
"We have time - we have a couple of hours."
"No... the time... its 8:30."
"...Oh."

He turned the TV on. And, not for the first time in the last ten years, I cried. Not the weeping sobs of the Tuesday, but just... silent weeping. I grieved for the families who lost their loved ones. And I cried for my country, another generation's lost innocence. For all the soldiers and innocent people who have lost their lives since that day. For ... I don't know, really. For the tangible and intangible sacrifices we have made since then.

I thought I had written in the past about my experience on September 11. I have some sentimental comments from Septembers past, but I've never actually talked about that day on here. It seems appropriate on this 10th anniversary to take a moment to pause, reflect and remember.

I was working at a small church daycare. I was the teacher for the one year old class, and it was changing time. I remember, so clearly, standing at the changing table with one of my kiddos, when my boss Rogina walked out of her office. I wasn't the only adult in the room, but for some reason, she directed her comment to me. Perhaps because she knew my father was former military?

"It looks like someone fired a missile at the World Trade Center in New York! I think it was a training accident or something."

"Rogina, no way! They would never have those kind of exercises in the middle of a city! They have to have it wrong."

I finished what I was doing, and got the kids set up with their mid-morning snack. Leaving under the watchful eye of another teacher, I popped into Rogina's office to figure out what was going on. The second plane hit right before I walked in.She had a little six inch black and white TV in her office. I remember the newsman's voice, I think it was Tom Brokaw. I remember realizing that it was a plane, and that probably hundreds of people had lost their lives.

And then the first tower fell.

And I could only stand there in stunned silence, tears streaming down my face.

I remember the sound of the announcer on TV, who sounded and stunned and heartsick as I felt.

I remember the sound of Shawnelle's laugh in the other room, playing with the babies.

I remember trying to explain to Rogina, and to the other adults, why this was SO bad.

I didn't find out about the Pentagon until my mom came to pick me up to take me to school. I was in community college at the time, and Spanish was my only Tuesday class. I had a test that day, there was no way I could skip. She and I were listening to the radio, crying, and remembering how scary it was for military families after the Oklahoma City bombings (bases locked down, no one knew if other attacks were imminent, and anti-military protesters appeared practically out of nowhere waving their signs and shouting at people as the went on and off base.)

At some point between work and school, I moved into a state of numb shock. We knew we needed to call Aunt Doris and Uncle Ed (my grandfather's brother and sister-in-law) to find out about my dad's cousin Mark. And I knew I needed to focus on my test.

By the time I got to class, the word "terrorism" was echoing through the halls. Our professor asked us if we wanted to put the test off, and in a burst of (useless but personally satisfying) patriotism, we decided we weren't going to let the terrorists "win" by causing us to completely disrupt our lives. So we took that test. And every single student, save one older lady, failed it. (I distinctly recall that I ended every single conjugated verb with -ando. Yeahhh, that's not a verb ending at all. Ever.)

We found out MUCH later that Mark was fine. And I felt closer to the strangers in the grocery store than to some of my friends. There was this sense of shared suffering, shared tragedy, and if you smiled at a stranger, it was a sad smile, because you were both thinking of the same thing.

It is still surprisingly difficult for me to talk about this. In 2003, I wrote that I hoped I would never forget.

I haven't.

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