Sunday, September 10, 2006

That day...

I heard it from the neighbor boy. They were getting ready to move so he was home. This 14 year old boy banged on my door and said, "a plane crashed into the World Trade Center!" I didn't believe him and he urged me to turn on the TV. We didn't have cable at the time and the picture was fuzzy, but I had turned it on just it time to see the second plane crashing into the tower. Then the reports about the Pentagon, planes being hijacked, we were under attack. You don't hear about it much anymore, but I remember the reports coming in right and left, mostly rumors, of fires, more planes missing, bomb sounded like DC was being invaded. Of course we later learned that many of those reports were rumors or hoaxes, but at the time, I really felt like THIS WAS IT. I had to sit down for a minute and think.

My knee-jerk reaction was to gather my children close to me. I was sooo tempted to rush to the school to bring them all home. The only thing that stopped me was that if parents started coming to get their kids, and this wasn't real, it might frightened the kids who had to stay. It was so hard to stay away, but I made that choice early on and am glad now that I stuck by it.

I was babysitting for my best friend's daughter at that time and had to fight hard to keep that little girl from seeing my tears and feeling my panic. Because the tv signal was horrible, I had taken her and gone to the neighbor's house to watch it all. It was there that we watched the 1st tower fall. I remember we were talking and watching it fall, but it didn't really dawn on us till it was over that it had fallen. I remember foggily interupting the conversation and saying, completely without feeling or understanding of what I was saying, "it's falling". Just like that-totally deadpan-but it stopped the conversation and we all stood there in silence. For the life of me, I can't remember what the tv people were saying. I suddenly felt the urge to move. I had to get out of there. I decided to go to my mother's who was out of town, but in my panic I was having a hard time deciding what I needed to do to get there. I finally got us loade up in the care with things to entertain BF'sD. I listened to the radio as I drove. I will never forget the words, (pardon the use of words, it is a quote) "OH MY G*D! The second tower is falling! NO, no, it can't be!" I was sitting at a stop sign and couldn't go. I had burst into tears and was trying desperately to get control for BF'sD's sake.

At some point that day, I walked outside and sat in my mother's swing. Looking up at a the clearest, bluest sky I could remember, I tried to find the words to pray, but all I could muster was, "God, how can it be real? It's such a perfect day,"

I won't go on with MY reaction. My oldest daughter was the only one of my children who knew. I had to break the news to them and was amazed at how little I had to explain to them. Even my kindergartener knew about the "twin towers" in New York City. I think the most notable reaction was when I told my oldest boy-then in 8th grade. He said "nuh uh". Who COULD believe the unbelievable?

There are a couple of things that happened that day that I want to make note of that took place that day. These things were a result of the attacks, but my memory of them have been nearly drowned out by the memories of the attacks themselves. Bear with me while I record them for my own memory's sake.

The kindergarten students got out of school an hour earlier than the rest of the students here. I had gone to line up to pick up my youngest daughter. While parked in the line, I saw someone roll down their window and look out...and up. Then they got out of their car and looked up. The person behind them got out and looked up. After the 3rd or fourth person, I started looking myself. By the time I got out of the car and the reality of what was happening dawned on me, everyone was out, pointing and talking. It didn't dawn on me right away. We live under a flight path. There was a plane. HIGH up in the sky, but in that crystal clear blue, it's con trails were perfectly visible-in a sky with NO other con trails. Talk about thoughts running through your head. I mean normally we wouldn't have thought twice about a plane or con trails, but the absence of any others made a stark statement about the fact that there weren't supposed to be ANY planes up there. Of course later we would learn that it was probably a fighter in route, or maybe even Air Force One, but now I find it a perfect example of the palpable fear that we all had that day. In fact, up until that moment, I hadn't realize why the sky was so perfectly clear and blue. It was normally criss-crossed with con trails.

The second was rural TN...some wise guy gas station owner got scared of the possibility of a fuel shortage and decided he was going to start profitting from it. About 5 o'clock, reports of gas prices shooting through the roof...and quick...sent enough people to the gas station, including myself, to cause very long waits. We had ended up at a little gas station with one bank of pumps and a line on each side at least 20 cars long. I remember the gas was already at $2.49 and there were rumors flying on the radio of it surging up to $5 per gallon by morning with a very real possibility of not having ANY by the end of the week. WE were there for an hour or more. I'm sure the people behind us, were happy with me cause I had a 30-something gallon van to fill.

During all of these events, I had a very real sense of us all being in this together-Community. That's what we became in the following weeks. In spite of the terribleness of that day. I loved what came from it. The events of that day were unbelievable, but what I find even moreso is that just five short years later, we have returned to status quo. How easily we forget.

More Sept. 11 stories are found at Rocks in My Dryer.

A list of trubutes to each of the 2,996 victims of 9/11