FORT WORTH: It is still clear, seventeen years later. As clear as it was that September 11th day 2001. As clear as if it were yesterday and not 17 years ago, when the phone rang, my sister Mary crying, “They’re attacking us!.”
“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!”
Putting down the receiver, and turning on the television, as so many millions of other Americans were simultaneously doing the feel was dread.
Dread filled me.
Somehow I expected this to eventually happen. Hope was that America was insulated enough it would never happen. But it happened at Pearl Harbor. The possibility of terror in our streets was real.
Now it was terror perpetuated high in the sky and against symbols of American exceptionalism.
Normal programming came to a halt as every channel began to focus on the horror unfolding before a stunned nation. Awe struck, no one could believe what they were seeing. An inferno raged from both towers.
As newscaster Herbert Morrison said of the Hindenburg disaster:
It’s smoke, and it’s in flames now; and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring mast. Oh, the humanity!
Collectively America stood rock still, unable to move. Brains unable to comprehend what our hearts knew. America’s world had just changed.
My brain couldn’t comprehend what my heart knew. I couldn’t take it all in.
Turning thoughts to what happens after September 11
Like many others, when the planes started falling from the sky I had young children in the house; David, who would be four that week, and our infant, Rosie. David was asking what was going on, responding to my upset. Wondering if he should be afraid. The answer was yes, 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, or for the safety of my children. Within my own country as yet. I realized with horror that mothers around the world lived in fear of terrorism. Fear for their children. My heart broke further.
The voices of those reporting the tragedy bespoke horror, amazement, surprise, and sorrow all-the-while trying to remain professional amid the chaos.
Reaching for the remote, suddenly one tower seemed to melt as huge clouds of dust, debris, heat and smoke exploded over Manhattan.
All hell broke loose on TV. David screamed “Mommy!” David was unable to handle the chaotic, horrific imagery. This was not for children to witness. I had to get myself together, go over it in my heart and head, then decide how to explain it to him. The TV was turned off, just mere minutes after it began. But the feeling of anxiety, dread and horror would remain.
One thing I knew, I was angry – then and now
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!
It was a feeble response. But the only one I had. I really, really wanted to punch something at that moment.
My husband was working 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.
September 11 Never forgetting
Our flag stays up, proudly flying. At the time, like many others, 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.
Like many Americans, 2001 was already a difficult year. We were in a smaller recession, a precursor to the Great Recession of Dec 2007-June 2009. Jobs were not stable. Costs were rising.
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.
We were exhausted. The attacks on September 11 seemed to remove the last vestige of feeling safe. It would never be the same.
America’s past horrors
After September 11, I traveled to 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 16 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. We fought hard for America and America’s ideals they seemed to be saying. Don’t let our death’s be in vain. Protect our homeland.
I felt like both sides were united now, telling me to not be afraid for those that would die for the cause of freedom.
The fear was not my death, but of the death of America and her freedoms
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. Our area could possibly 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 this, the seventeenth anniversary of 9/11, please take time to remember all those murdered that day and all those ready to defend America.
- 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.
- Those that died on the American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon.
- The brave souls who ran towards the disasters knowing they would die in an effort to save lives.
- All those who came together to deal with the aftermath of clean up and to rebuild.
- The families and friends who lost loved ones that day.
- Those that are the survivors. All those who continue to deal mentally, emotionally and physically with the atrocities of September 11, 2001.
We Shall never forget… Blessed are the Peacemakers – Let Freedom Ring
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. If you were there on that day, what would you have done? What is your freedom worth to you? It is a worthy conversation to have with your teens and young adults who, now 17 years after September 11, 2001, do not remember life without the threat of terrorism.
Remind them that in the very near future, if not already, they too will be able to vote, choose to serve in the military, strive to effect positive change through service to their family and communities.
Help them to recognize that their greatest weapon against terrorism is their ability to vote for the party that they feel will best guard all our freedoms, keep our land safe, and support a strong military.