Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11, 2007

By the time any of us has reached adulthood, there has been at least one historical event for which there will be a lifelong discussion of "Do you remember where you were when . . " In my lifetime such events have included:
  • the assassination of John F. Kennedy- I was not even two years old and I have no idea what I was doing
  • the end of the Vietnam War - I was about ten and lived in Hawaii. Each of the planes carrying returning POW's landed in Honolulu, the first U.S. soil that these men stepped on. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet every one of these planes. Though at the time I was too young to understand all of the ramifications of this war, it did touch me on a personal level because my dad had been to Vietnam. Fortunately, he returned home safely. For several years during that time, I wore a POW bracelet bearing the name of a U.S. prisoner of war. On the second night of meeting these planes, the man whose name I had carried with me walked off the plane and I was able to give to him that bracelet.
  • the release of the hostages in Iran - I was in college. We were supposed to be having a wind ensemble rehearsal. The director felt that watching this moment in history was more important to our education than rehearsing Sousa marches so he rolled a TV cart into the band hall and we all sat and watched.
  • the Challenger explosion - I, like most involved in education, watched the launch of the shuttle carrying the first civilian teacher at school. I was in graduate school at the time.
  • September 11, 2001

On that Tuesday morning six years ago, BK and I took the girls to school and stopped at Cracker Barrel for breakfast on the way home. While were doing the New York Times crossword puzzle over coffee, BK got a frantic call from her sister asking where John, BK's husband, was. BK said that he was in Chicago. MH starting telling us all of the sketchy details of the first attacks on the World Trade Center. In the first moments of the morning's events, there was talk of possible attacks in several big cities. Like I said, John was on the ground at a conference in Chicago and Mike was supposed to be in the air on his way to New York. Thankfully as it turned out, he was on a plane that was grounded in Atlanta. We left our unfinished puzzle on the table at Cracker Barrel and headed home to watch the news. It was several hours before I was able to reach Mike and know that he was safely on the ground. We reached John almost immediately. Throughout the day, several friends called to talk about how upset they were. Like people all over this country, we did our best to console one another.

It was interesting to me that though BK and I both had husbands traveling, few people asked how we were and if they were OK. We were to be the consolers, not the consolees. And, we were. During the four days following 9/11, we served forty dinners to various people. This community was what made these days bearable. I sometimes wonder, looking back, how I managed to be so hospitable at that time. I now know that that was all I could do. Somehow, I believe it was an extension of my faith.

Both John and Mike arrived home on Friday of that week - John after renting a car and driving and Mike on one of the first planes back in the air. At the point he flew home, the TSA had not even decided what could be carried on by passengers. Mike may have been one of the first people to test whether or not we can fly with knitting needles. Security pulled his metal sock needles from his bag. The officers had a discussion about whether or not they should be permitted on board. Mike, not being the patient type, offered to take them to the Admirals Club and have them mailed home. They too arrived home safely a few days later. I am amazed at how vivid the details of this day and those following still are to me.

I turned on CNN this morning to hear a debate over whether or not we should continue to have public commemorations of 9/11. In a viewer call in poll, the two sides were tied at 50/50. Those against continuing to hold these public "spectacles", as one person called them, said that we need to let the families who lost loved ones and this country move on. Those in favor argue that the events of that day will be forever ingrained in us and we need these ceremonies to acknowledge that which we all carry deep within.

No matter how many more years the names of those lost are read in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, commemorations will continue to happen. If you are old enough to remember September 11, 2001, I don't think that it is possible to meet this day each year and not stop for a moment and remember where you were then . . .and be thankful for where you are now.