Friday, September 10, 2010

September 11, 2001

Do you remember where you were that day?

I was in a Bible study. The first meeting of a Bible study at a church where I only knew one person, and not very well.

But it started before I left home. I remember the Today Show. Matt Lauer had a funny look on his face. "We have breaking news . . . no, we're going to commercial first." I was in a hurry getting ready to leave for the Bible study but I made a point to see what would happen after the commercial break.

They came back with a live shot of the twin towers with smoke pouring out of one of them. They still thought it was a small airplane and didn't have much info.

I remember going into the bathroom. We had a small black and white TV in there, on the shelf above the washer/dryer. My husband was in the shower. I turned on the little TV and pulled it off the shelf so I could turn it and show him.

But, I had planned to leave for this Bible study so a couple minutes later I got in the car. The second plane hit while I was driving down the driveway. I remember the local talk show personality talking about it, he'd seen it on TV. "I'm watching a second plane hit the other tower!"

I didn't believe it. I was convinced that the TV people had found someone who had footage of the first plane, and they were showing it. It wasn't a live shot. It couldn't possibly happen that 2 planes would hit the two towers so close together.

It took 20 minutes or so to get to the Bible study. By the time I got there, I was realizing that it was true, both towers had been hit. But I'm still thinking, small plane, burning building, tragedy . . . but not realizing the magnitude of the situation. Maybe because I couldn't see it with my eyes.

I told the Bible study leader about what I'd heard. Most of those attending had apparently not been listening to a news channel on their car radios. We prayed for the people in the towers and started the study.

About an hour later someone's cell phone rang. She went out and answered it, then came back and told us, "That was my husband on the phone. He said that both towers have collapsed and 100,000 people are dead."

I think I felt like you feel when someone suddenly dies. You don't believe it. Denial. This couldn't have happened.

So then the pastor of the church came in. He gave us more details. More planes. The pentagon. There were at least 6 planes, he said. There was a truck bomb at the Capitol Building.

Bible study was dismissed. I went outside and looked up at the sky. Was a plane going to crash into one of the buildings in the small town of Ballston Spa? What should I do? Where should I go?

I didn't have a cell phone then. But I was within 5 minutes from the school my son attended, so I went there. "Take him home," the Principal said when I entered the school office. "All the parents are taking the kids home."

I went into the church office (the school is a private school on the grounds of a church). They had a TV on, and I was able to see a bit of footage, my first visual confirmation of what had happened.

I went downstairs to the 4th grade class. One of the other students came up to me and asked, "What's going on?" They only knew vague details. I was able to answer that I didn't really know much.

The teacher was in a panic. Her daughter lived in Pennsylvania and she was worried the plane crash there could have killed her. I didn't know enough details to be able to reassure her.

I took my son home. The kids turned on some cable children's channel in the living room and I was very glad for cable channels that just kept broadcasting their regular programming, and also for the fact that we had another TV in the house.

My husband had stayed home, once he saw the second plane hit. No one was going to buy anything from him that day, anyway. We sat in the bedroom and watched the coverage. All the hospitals waiting for lots and lots of wounded people, and only a few actually showing up. People holding up pictures of people who were missing.

And the towers falling . . . they replayed that over and over and over. My little guy said, "There it goes again, the tower falling down." I had to explain that it happened once, but they were repeating it again and again. He seemed to understand -- after all, the channels he watched repeated shows again and agian, so he was familiar with the concept.

I remember for the following month, being still in denial. "I can't believe the towers actually collapsed."

I looked up World Trade Center in my encyclopedia. We have the 1972 World Book, which my parents bought when I was a child. The article about the World Trade Center shows a photo of a mostly-completed building. They were built *after* I was born, they were younger than me and they were gone.

Remember all the flags? Everyone flew a flag. We were all united. We didn't have Democrats bad-mouthing Republicans. But now, looking back, that didn't last that long, did it?

I can remember every detail of that morning. But it feels like we've already forgotten.

Photo credit: Library of Congress

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