Moments That Change Us

 The World Trade Center, one of three sites on ...Image via Wikipedia

Today is 9-11, a day that is being remembered around this country in somber ceremonies, private reflection, prayers, and memorial services.  Most of us will be thinking back to what we were doing that day in 2001 when we first heard the news of a plane hitting the World Trade Center and the subsequent plane crashes.

On 9-11-2001, I drove into work like any other workday.  It was a particularly beautiful day here in Central PA.  I remember thinking how the sky was such a vivid blue and the words of the poem “October’s Bright Blue Weather” came to mind.  Later that morning, as I sat at my desk at the college library, a co-worker rushed in to tell me that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center.  I ran down the hall to the break room and joined my other colleagues who were gathered round the TV watching the news report. 
The north tower (1 WTC) of the World Trade Cen...Image via Wikipedia

As we watched, I noticed another jet coming in low on camera.  “They should be diverting air traffic near there,” I thought to myself.  No sooner had I thought this when the second plane crashed into another tower.  There was silence in the room and on the TV for several seconds and then I said, “That couldn’t have been an accident.  It’s too much of a coincidence.”

Events continued to unfold as the minutes ticked off and we watched in growing horror.  Smoke was now starting to pour out of the windows of the towers.  At that point, I couldn’t watch any more.
For some reason, it was important to me to go through the motions of normalcy.  I headed back to my desk.  If nothing else, I could answer the phone since most of the rest of the staff were still in the breakroom.

It wasn’t long before another co-worker stuck his head in my door and said, “Dee, I think you need to come see this.  The Pentagon has just been attacked.”  He knew that when I had served in the Navy, one of the places I’d been stationed had been at the Navy Annex, sitting on the hill overlooking the Pentagon.

I ran down the hall and watched more images flash across the screen.  That was it for work that day.  For the rest of the day, we mainly stayed glue to the television, occasionally checking our phones for messages.

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...Image via WikipediaMy Sunday School teacher asked our class today if any of us had been personally impacted by 9-11.  I replied that I believed that anyone who had seen the images of that day was personally impacted by the events.  There will be no way you can get those out of your mind.  I still remember with absolute clarity what I was doing and what I thought the day President Kennedy was shot.  It will be the same with 9-11-01.

I remember thinking that I felt like part of my innocence died that day.  I had the same feeling when I was diagnosed with cancer.  I felt like my body had betrayed me by letting a deadly mass grow inside me unawares.  Now I felt like my country, that I had naively taken for granted was immune to enemy attack, was suddenly very vulnerable.
In the months immediately after that day, I drove my family crazy going over escape routes and rendezvous plans with them, should we need to suddenly evacuate the area without being able to first meet up together.  They thought I was nuts.  I thought I was being prepared.  I still have a big roll of heavy-duty plastic under a table downstairs, bottled water, canned goods, a battery-operated radio, flashlights, duct tape, and even an axe, in case Three Mile Island falls under attack and we have to seal ourselves in the basement against radioactive fallout.  Don’t laugh!  Those were all recommended things to have on hand, recommended by our state branch of the Homeland Security Department.

To this day, I get very nervous if a low-flying plane goes overhead.  I wonder if it is heading towards our local nuclear power plant.  If I see unattended packages, bookbags, briefcases, or suitcases, I go and find someone in authority and report it.  I’m not taking any chances.  I can’t watch reports about September 11 without getting up and walking away in tears.  Too much suffering….too many needless deaths.

What were YOU doing on September 11, 2001?  How has it changed you?

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