Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11: Memoir of events surrounding September 11, 2001

It was September of 2001 and we had just moved in to the new house we built on the land I grew up on. The kids were young and life was good. It seemed back then that I treasured every moment with them, taking delight in the even the smallest things. Long walks and bike rides were part of almost every day in the summer. We would take time to look at the different rocks on the road and inspect the wildflowers in the field, marveling at God's creation.

We had spent several months living just down the hill from our new house at my mom and grandma's while our house was being built. This was a good time in life. It was a nostalgic feeling that I haven't been able to recapture since leaving the there. Mark, mom, grandma and I would spend hours in the yard just relaxing and watching the kids play in the sandbox or watching tadpoles swim in the pond. 

The old barn served as a backdrop to the yard in which I used to ride my horses, play catch with my uncles or garden with my grandma. I recall the barn and its many uses . . backboard for my single tennis matches, sanctuary for me and my horse Robbie when life just got "too hard to handle," haunted house for the 6th grade class party and shelter for any warm-blooded creature that chose to take up residence there in the winter . . including a number of tame and not-so-tame kittens. 

During our stay with my mom and grandma while our house was in construction, we didn't mind staying in the room which used to be my room in the attic of the house, crowding the five of us into one large area .. crib, toddler bed, TV and all. Maybe my mom and grandma didn't have as much fun as we did, but it was an adventure, especially knowing that the comfort of a spacious house was in our near future.

This was an exciting move for us having my mom and grandma just down the hill. The kids were very excited knowing they could go down to grandma's at any time. It was comforting to me knowing that my mom and grandma were close by, being an only child. My mom and grandma eagerly volunteered to watch the kids when I needed to go out by myself for a church event, committee meeting, see a friend or just go shopping. My mom loved her grandkids like no grandma I have known. And they loved her. 

We moved into our new house and fall set in. Summer ended and it was time to put away the sandals and shorts and take out the school clothes and get just a little more serious about routines and life in general. School began for Ashton, our oldest, as a kindergartner. 

September began and routines were started. Tuesday, September 11th came and was an exciting morning. It was exciting because it would be the first day of a leadership role that I had worked hard to prepare for over the summer of 2001. This was our very first day of M.O.P.S (Mothers of Preschoolers) at the church we attended. There had never been a M.O.P.S program at the church or in the area before and a friend of mine, Cindy, and myself had decided there should be one! So we contacted M.O.P.S. International and inquired about what we needed to do to start a M.O.P.S. group where we lived. We worked hard and got everything in place for our first meeting ..  volunteers for nursery, mentor moms, speakers, crafts, food, advertising and financial backing. I was the Coordinator and Cindy was the assistant and coordinator of crafts. 

It was time to go to church to begin our new group and meet the ladies that I would be spending many Tuesday mornings with. It was Ashton's day home, being a blue day, so he came along and helped gather everything Gracie and Luke would need for the morning. We arrived at church and Cindy and I nervously prepared for the arrival of the women and children. It was exciting as we laid out snacks in each nursery room, checked name tags at the front counter and made sure the table center pieces were in place. I had just checked on the breakfast in the oven and walked by our pastor's office. He and another man from the church were watching something on the television. I caught glimpse of it and asked what was going on. Our pastor said there had been a bombing that had made one of the World Trade Center towers collapse. I went out to check on my kids and grabbed Cindy to come and see what was happening in New York. We all stood in the pastor's office and watched in shock as reporters showed video of smoke and dust and people running in the streets. No one was quite sure what was going on, even the reporters. Then another reporter had mentioned a plane. We were all wondering what the connection was.

Then word came in that there had been an attack on the second tower and reports of a plane flying into the building. We wondered how a plane could fly into a building like that and if it were an accident or a plane flying out of control  . . no one knew. It didn't seem like long after, we heard there had been another plane that had crashed into the Pentagon. Still no one knew what was happening. 

All we knew was that something that seemed impossible was happening to our country.

Over the news, came a report that the second Twin Tower had fallen. Word that President George W. Bush had been taken to a safe, undisclosed location also came through the television. Horror came into our minds as a report came in of a nursery on the lower level of one of the towers. Questions of "Did everyone get out?" and "Were they able to evacuate the area?" came to mind. None of these questions could be answered by what we were seeing and hearing on the news. We all stopped and prayed . . praying for those in and near the fallen buildings, praying for the Pentagon workers, praying against more attacks, praying for our leaders and country. 

I stepped back into the hallway and looked at my friend, not knowing what to do and knowing people would soon be arriving. Another friend arrived to help with the morning activities, unaware of what had taken place in New York. I had to tell her that there was some sort of an attack, it seemed, on the World Trade Center and that the Twin Towers had both collapsed. She was also in shock. It was almost 9:00 a.m. and time to start the meeting. We had made the decision to continue as scheduled and headed to the foyer to greet the ladies as they arrived. My mind kept wandering back to the trip I had taken in college and the awe I had while looking up at the 110 stories of each of the Twin Towers, that I had never seen anything like in the small town I grew up in.

I caught myself remembering the Staton Island ferry trip we took to admire the Manhattan skyline. I knew things would never be the same for the New York people and our country.

The women and children arrived, some of them knowing what was currently happening in New York and some not. We all gathered in the fellowship hall, got everyone seated and began the meeting. As coordinator, it was my responsibility to kick off the meeting with a funny story, anecdote, or fun ice-breaker activity. There would be none of that this morning. I told the women that they may or may not be aware of what was happening on the east coast, but we needed to take some time pray for the people involved. The meeting went on as scheduled but, for obvious reasons, with little enthusiasm. The rest of the morning was a blur.

The kids and I arrived home. I first turned on the TV and then called other family members, knowing they were probably safe in their homes or at work, but it was comforting to talk to them and hear their voices. I tried to explain to Ashton, who was six and also glued to the television, what was going on, but not quite sure myself. All I knew is that I wanted all three of the kids within arms length that afternoon. 

I remember the eerie feeling of not seeing or hearing anything in the sky as all flight travel had been restricted, the government not knowing if more of these type of attacks were imminent and threatening that any aircraft found in the sky would be shot down. As I watched TV footage, I spent some time on the phone with Mark discussing what could have happened and the implications it might have on our country. Who would have known that it would be a catalyst to future economic troubles in the lost air travel and future difficulty in air business travel. Who would have known that we would be in a War Against Terror ever since. Who would have known how our citizens would now be under surveillance in a sort of Orwellian nature . . . due to 9-11 terrorists disguising themselves as one of us and carrying out their evil plans under American training. And who would have known we would continue to be in battle on our own ground and abroad for the sake of others and the threat of an increased rise and strength of terrorist groups.  

Our family has since moved on and have been blessed in our new location. But things haven't been the same. I no longer have my mom, she passed away in 2008, and only see my grandma when I can as she lives in Kansas now. The houses have been occupied by others. The M.O.P.S. group continues but at another church. I am not sure if the nostalgia has been lost due to life circumstances or our country never being the same after 9-11, or a combination of both. All I know is that life is good, but not the same. My heart goes out to those who were impacted by September 11, 2001 in a much more tragic way. The majority of us just live in a different world, with perhaps more apprehension and fear of the unknown. But those who lost loved ones from this tragedy, deal with an emptiness of losing a family member or friend in such a horrific way that many of us cannot understand. 

If you've taken a moment to read this, please say a prayer for those who have lost loved ones and for our country .  . for protection from further attacks and that our people would turn their hearts back to God!