Many of us are aware of where we were and what we were doing on the morning of September 11, 2001. I was in the kitchen listening to the radio as I cleaned up. There was a shocked report from the talk show host of a plane in the air in the city. My thought was that it must be a small private plane. There was a crash. There was a second plane. I rushed to the family room, where Stan already had on the television. I sat on the arm of his chair as we watched the live coverage.
As it became, moment by moment, more apparent that this unbelievable event was an attack on the country, I needed to know that our daughters were safe. The phone rang. Our daughter in California had car trouble on the freeway and was calling to ask her father’s advice. She was safe. (If in a precarious position, with whizzing cars honking at her.
Almost everyone I talked to had similar reactions. Where are our loved ones? Are they ok?
We were glued to the television and radio for the remainder of the day. I have no memory of anything else I did. I remember the way President Bush’s face altered when someone whispered in his ear as he sat on a stage, reading to elementary school children. I remember the admiration I felt for the way he continued with the book, so as not to worry those children.
It was a day of horror. It was a day of supreme courage and sacrifice. My memories are full of images that must have been from later of the dust clouds pouring down the streets in New York City. Of the planes flying into the buildings. Of tiny objects falling from the buildings that despite my brain’s attempt to deny what I was seeing, were people who had jumped. I know I did not hear the phone conversation from the flight attendant over Pennsylvania telling her supervisor, “I have to go, now. I am boiling water,” until long after the event, but my brain has stored it in the same place so it rushes to my attention as if it were part of what I experienced that day.
It had been a beautiful, clear, blue-skied day. And, the next day dawned the same. Except, it was not the same. And, we would never be the same, again. However, just as we had shared the devastation of 9/11, we shared the survivor emotions the next day. September 12th was a day of love and unity.
American flags flew everywhere on that lovely early fall day. They were half-staffed on official buildings, but on many homes, they flew high. They were on trucks and cars. And, we waved to each other, friends and strangers alike, and flashed peace/victory signs. We were survivors. We were together. Above all else, we were Americans.