FORT WORTH, Texas, September 3, 2011 — The phone rang as I gave my seven month old daughter her morning breathing treatment. Re-arranging my squirming baby I reached for the phone and said hello.
“They’re attacking us!” cried my sister Mary.
“Who is attacking us? What do you mean?” trying to make sense of what she was saying.
“Terrorists! It’s on TV! They blew up the World Trade Center! Go look! Turn it on!”
My son David was watching his morning cartoons. In the middle of the treatment I couldn’t leave and go into another room to watch it.
Putting down the receiver, “David, I need to change the channel real quick.”
He didn’t protest. Maybe he sensed something in my voice.
Dread filled me. Somehow I expected this to eventually happen. After all, didn’t most of us think Muslim terrorists were responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing? I believe we all expected it but hoped it would never happen. Now it had.
I turned to local channel eight, WFAA. Good Morning America interrupted their normal programming to focus on the horror unfolding before a stunned nation. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My heart sank. An inferno raged from both towers. I couldn’t move.
My brain couldn’t comprehend what my heart knew. I couldn’t take it all in.
“Are you on a channel that’s showing it yet?”
“Huh? yeah. Oh my god! This is unbelievable. This can’t be happening. All those people!”
“I’ve got more calls to make. Just wanted to let you know. We’ll talk later.” Then Mary hung up.
David, who would be four that week, asked what was going on. He had never seen me upset while watching TV and wondered if he should be afraid. I explained that bad people made those buildings blow up and now many, many people were dead and dying.
I had not consciously realized the violation of my sense of safety within my own country as yet.
The voices of those reporting the tragedy bespoke horror, amazement, surprise, and sorrow all-the-while trying to remain professional amid the chaos.
I began to notice my son was becoming over stimulated with all this going on. He is hyperactive and too much stimulus overwhelms him. Breathing treatment done now, I put Rosie on the floor to play and reached for the remote.
All of a sudden, one tower seemed to melt as huge clouds of dust, debris, heat and smoke exploded over Manhattan.
David, Rosie and I froze. All hell broke loose on TV.
I changed the channel. I desperately wanted to watch the whole thing but David couldn’t handle the chaotic imagery. And I didn’t want to answer any more questions. I had to get myself together, go over it in my heart and head, then decide how to explain it to him.
One thing I was sure of was that I was angry. There was no doubt as to who was responsible for these horrific atrocities. So I did the only thing I could do at that point; I went and got my American flag and hung it outside.
“So there!” I thought to myself as I stuck the pole in the holder attached to my house.
Take that you assholes!! How dare you attack my country! How dare you threaten my family, loved ones and fellow Americans!
I really, really wanted to punch something at that moment.
My husband Merwyn worked at Bell Helicopter Textron. When we talked he told me about the sudden increase in security and the hubbub of activity that was going on.
One of my brothers works at Lockheed Martin. I imagined the hoops he was jumping through at that moment.
Once my children were down for their naps I was finally able to watch more of the nightmare on TV. My heart broke for all the victims. For their families. It was a sad and somber day for those of us sitting on the sidelines.
Our flag stayed up for a long time. I bought red, white and blue ribbon, curled them with a scissor, and then tied them around the antennas on our cars. The ribbon stayed there until there was nothing left but the knot.
2001 was already a difficult year for my husband and me. We joyously welcomed our daughter Rosalie to our family in February. Unfortunately twelve days later she developed Respiratory Sincytial Virus (RSV) pneumonia and spent the next five weeks on a ventilator.
Every day for almost two months she hovered between life and death. Rosie’s dad and I were told to start thinking about a funeral.
But because of a miracle we were able to keep her. When she came home she required four breathing treatments a day, medicine to keep her from having more seizures and was on nectar-thick liquids.
We were exhausted but needless to say I was hesitant to leave her with anybody.
By November I felt ready to leave her and David in the competent hands of their aunts and uncles who would take turns caring for them for a few days.
My husband and I didn’t want to go too far so we decided on Vicksburg, Mississippi. Neither of us had ever gone gambling before and Las Vegas was too far and too expensive at this time. Besides we didn’t want to run the risk of getting stuck in an airport in the event we needed to get home fast.
While there we visited Vicksburg National Military Park. It is the site of the Siege of Vicksburg during the Civil War that took place from May 26 through July 4, 1863.
The park includes a National Cemetery where 18,000 American and Confederate soldiers and sailors rest. 17, 077 are from the Civil War; 12, 909 of them are unknown. An additional 12, 280 graves include soldiers from the Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II and the Korean War.
There are sixteen miles of paved roads that take you throughout the park. We spent the better part of a day exploring this historic site.
In light of 9/11 it was a poignant afternoon. As I walked along paying my respects to those buried there I could almost hear them crying out for justice. Oh how they would love to come back and kick some Al Qaeda ass!
I felt like both sides, united now, telling me to not be afraid to die for the cause of freedom.
I wasn’t really worried about dying. North Central Texas would be more difficult to get to than places nearer the coast. But we do have Bell Helicopter, Lockheed Martin, and the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth. So I figured our area would probably be on someone’s hit list.
What could we do? Other than use a whole lot of common sense and keeping a level head there’s not much and I wasn’t going to let it ruin our lives.
Maybe what the Vicksburg soldiers were getting at was freedom itself. How important is it to all of us? Those passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania found out. When hijackers told them they were in control the passengers on board cried a resounding, “NO!”
In that instant they knew what their freedom was worth. Then they chose to die defending it.
I could only hope I would act with such courage if I ever found myself in similar circumstances.
In honor of the tenth anniversary of 9/11 I ask each of you to take time to remember all those murdered that day by idiots who are not afraid to die for what they believe.
- Remember those “who would not go quietly into the night” on Flight 93 thus foiling Al Qaeda’s purpose for that plane that saved countless lives.
- Remember those who ran towards the disasters knowing they would die in an effort to save lives.
- Remember all those who came together to deal with the aftermath of clean up and to rebuild.
- Remember the families and friends who lost loved ones that day.
- Remember the survivors and all those who continue to deal mentally, emotionally and physically with the atrocities of ten years ago.
Pray for all of them. If you don’t pray then send positive energy. These folks bear the worst of the scars of that fateful day.
Then lastly, take time to consider your freedom. What is it worth to you?
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