It was a beautiful day much like today. Temperature was around 70 and school had just started again after a long summer break. I had just finished an exercise video and was about to start the treadmill when I turned on the tv. Instead of the regular programming the station was showing a view of the World Trade Center which was expelling billowing, dark gray smoke.
I called Himself at work to see what the buzz was there since he was in the travel industry. They thought it was a small plane gone astray just as one did at the Empire State Building many years ago. While we were talking, a second plane went into the other Tower and I screamed, “OhmyGod! OhmyGod! OhmyGod! It was then we knew we were being attacked.
After hanging up with Himself, I tried to go on the treadmill. Was it shock? A need for normalcy or routine in my world which had just been turned upside down? I can’t tell you but I remember that I couldn’t stay on that machine but, instead, sat riveted to the television.
I called my sister and gave her office the lowdown. I called my parents, brother, friends and told those who hadn’t heard yet to put on their tv’s. What channel, they asked. Any channel.
Thinking about bioterrorism, I went to the nearest supermarket and bought twenty-two gallons of water and two gallons of bleach for purifying water. I then filled up my gas tank and told the Middle Eastern attendant to be careful. Next was a stop at my daughter’s home. She was a mess but I knew that her friends were on their way so I went to The Boy’s school.
The Boy was in the lunch room and I explained to him and his friends what was happening as calmly as possible. They didn’t seem spooked so I asked my boy if he wanted to stay in school and be brave for his friends. He said yes. As I was leaving, I stopped in at the nurse’s office. I told her I didn’t know what was the right thing to do. She told me that, yes, I did know. I immediately went back to the lunch room and took my son home.
Himself was not permitted to leave work until three that afternoon. We had to turn off the television despite the fact that I didn’t want to. It just wasn’t good for our boy to watch this over and over again.
Living close to a very busy airport we are quite used to hearing planes going overhead at any time of the day. One of the most eerie parts of that day was the silence of commuter jet traffic and the roar of military jets and the pulsing of helicopter rotors which occasionally swept by.
We had no idea what was to come next. All we knew was that we were together, God was and is alive and well and that His eye was/is on us.
Truth be told, I don’t remember much else about that day. I was helping to care for a friend who was dying of cancer and had to compartmentalize everything to be able to cope. In the following months, I became anorexic (not for the first time), my son graduated from sixth grade, my dear friend died and I went into an eating disorders facility for three weeks to keep from dying myself. However, on September 11, 2002, the trauma hit me big time. I kept expecting the same thing to happen. It didn’t, thankfully, but the PTSD was and, I believe, is still rampant in these here parts.
On this eleventh anniversay, I sit here and wonder when the next attack will occur and if it will happen in the same places. Could my son cope with watching a site in NYC smoking and burning for two months again? I don’t care what your political leanings are but I believe the previous administration strengthened our security greatly. Our borders are still porous and that is a problem we need to deal with.
One of my greatest fears is that we, as a nation, have become complacent. Yes, we have to get on with our lives. However, there are people who complain about taking off their shoes before hopping on a plane and many who no longer fly their flags like we did five years ago. The taxis in NYC are honking their horns loudly again unlike the control they showed for what I believe was months after 9/11.
One good change has remained, though. We say, “I love you,” much more freely than we did five years ago. We are much more aware of how fragile and finite our lives are. This is a very good thing.