9/11

We’ve heard it so many times before:

I’ll never forget where I was when the first plane hit…..

And now you’ll hear it again.

I’ll never forget where I was when the first plane hit.

On my way to my first morning class, sleepily driving toward the campus, radio blaring, wind gushing through my Sunfire, no A/C needed as September in North Carolina is one of the most beautiful months that early Fall can offer. 

Then the break-in came through as I was rockin’ out to Staind.

At first instant, it seemed like a random report of another sad story to tell.  But it was more.  I knew because of the tone in their voices.  It was more because they were breaking in to report NYC news.  In North Carolina.

A commercial plane had just hit Tower I of the Twin Towers.

I parked and grabbed my bookbag and walked to class.  Everyone was just beginning to spread the news, talking about it, though not yet panicked.  We didn’t know.  Nobody knew.

Yet.

Our professor turned the TV on and surfed channels until Robin Roberts, Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson’s concerned faces graced the screen.

Minutes later another commercial plane hit Tower II.

Now the panic.

It was silent in that room, save for the updates streaming from the TV within minutes of each other.  Images of the smoke billowing above the Towers.  Confusion of that degree can leave you blindingly numb.

Class, at that point, was not priority.  Not for me, not for my classmates, not for my professor.  We were a room full of chins on the floor, eyes gaping at the screen.  The words were deafening, in a silent sort of way.

I excused myself and stepped into the hallway to call Paratrooper, my 82nd Airborne boyfriend stationed at nearby Fort Bragg.

No answer.

I called again.  And again.  And again……

No answer.

Again, panic.  This time for him.

What was this?

Then a plane down in PA, where Mama was.

Oh my God.

Then the Pentagon.

Tears welled.  Where next?  Here?  We have Sharon Harris Nuclear Facility within miles.  Fort Bragg, housing the infamous 82nd Airborne Brigade, Delta Force, Special Forces……..could we be next?  Who was this?  How?

Paratrooper was gone, as far as I knew.  Deployed within minutes, I thought.

Mama was scared, fearing the next wave, like the rest of us.  But she was okay.  Thank God, she was okay.

My world, my country, my family, friends, our world, was in shambles.

*****************

It was two days before Paratrooper called.  Post had been on lock-down, every soldier at the ready, waiting for one word.  No phones, no connection, no public.  Raw, silent readiness.  Our forces were staunch, sturdy, unwaveringly prepared to follow the slightest command.

After hanging up the phone, drying the tears, I dressed again for class.

As I drove past the local police department, I slowed at the sight.  Every police officer, fire fighter, rescue worker, government official was standing in the front lawn of the station, heads bowed, flag at half-staff.  Praying.

Praying.

The tears that had welled for the past 48 hours came in bounties now.  Pride, mixed with fear, mixed with determination rang through my head, my ears, my body.  I pulled over.

I prayed too.

It was at that moment that I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was proud to be an American.

********************

Eight years later, the emotions hit just as hard as they did that morning.  The American flag has flown more freely and in great masses since September 11th, 2001.  Our country was shaken, numbed, but we fought to reclaim it and steadfastly defend it, stronger than ever before.

We were rocked.  Hard.  But we didn’t fall.  Our Towers fell, taking too many of our patriots with it, but we didn’t fall.  America didn’t fall.

Someday I will tell my girls about that morning.  Before the schools can, before textbooks can, I will.  I want them to understand what it was like.  I want them to realize the blessings that are given to us at the expense of so many of the men and women that sacrifice their lives and their families to ensure that tragedy such as 9/11 never happen again.  Not here.  Not on American soil.

I’ll tell them where I was and what I felt.  I’ll tell them how our nation cried.  Together.  And how we survived.

Together.

I’ll never forget where I was when the first plane hit.

Twin Towers

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