It was a sunny day. It was warm out. We were still talking about the passing of Aaliyah. My daughter was just starting first grade. I was excited! She came home completely worn out and slept through the night! The days of her sleeping four hours a night and running fully charged during the rest of the day were finally over! Katie, Matt, Al and Anne were engaged in their usual morning banter. My daughter and I laughed at their joke as we walked out the door. I drove her to school and walked her into the lobby with the other students. One of the school administrators saw me (the only parent) walking my daughter in. She smiled and said in a sing-song tone, “Miss Indie-pend-aaaaant!” I smiled and thought to myself, “Yeah…I know I’m one of those mom’s….leave me alone!” I watched as my baby hurried down the hall, bright-eyed, happy and perfectly ok with leaving my side.
I made my way back to the car and started driving home. My drive home took me past the New Castle Airport, which is adjacent to the Delaware National Guard. I considered stopping at the Burger King next to the airport for a little breakfast, but I wanted to get back home and finish watching the Today Show. I walked in the house, where the television was still on. I sat on the edge of the bed and noticed the mood on the Today Show set had changed dramatically. The cast was quiet. They were stunned. I wasn’t gone for more than 15 minutes. What could have happened in that short span of time? Another celebrity death? Just then, the image popped up on the screen. One of the Twin Towers had a gaping hole near the top of the building. There was a huge cloud of smoke pouring out of the hole. Just then, from the left of the screen, a passenger plane entered the shot and crashed into the second building. “Oh…this has to be a scene from a new movie,” I thought. Katie echoed my thoughts, but then indicated the scene on the television was very real. We were under attack. I was suddenly short of breath. I tried to remember which of my family members worked in Manhattan. I wasn’t sure if any of them were close to the building on in the building. The Today Show cut away and local news came on and ran the video of the first and second plane crash. They said schools were closing. I didn’t stick around to hear the rest. I was in the car, trying to obey traffic laws. I had to get to my child.
I focussed in on the radio as I passed the airport. The signal wasn’t that great.
….we don’t know how many planes are in the air…
…the Golden Gate Bridge…
I looked up. There seemed to be no activity at the airport. No planes in or out. No military planes, no camouflage trucks on the road. Not a bird in the sky. I pulled up to the school where parents were already lined up to get their children. I grabbed my daughter and drove back home – still watching the sky. When I got home, I went back to watch the rest of news. I picked up the phone and called my brother in Georgia.
“Are you seeing this?”
“Yeah…I’m watching it now.”
“That’s home…that’s home,”
“I know, sis,” he said quietly, “I have to go.”
Then it happened. The first tower fell. Then the second. The Pentagon was hit. A plane crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. My heart broke. How could this be happening here? How could this be happening to my hometown? I thought we were safe. I haven’t felt safe since that Tuesday. I now hate driving past the New Castle Airport, especially when planes are coming into land. I was never a huge fan of bridges, but I’m on alert when I cross them now. I don’t get back to New York often, but when do get a chance to go back, I look over to left side of the bridge and can’t help but notice how naked the skyline looks.
Every year on September 11th I think about those who never made it home and the loved ones they left behind. I know about waiting for a loved one to call following such a tragedy. My father was working in New York when the first attempt to topple the buildings was made in 1993. My mother and I watched the news, and searched the soot covered faces of the passengers as they poured out of the subway at the World Trade Center. We searched for my father’s face amongst the crowd. We didn’t see him. He didn’t have a cell phone and based on the number of times we paged him in the span of an hour, he wasn’t near a land line. About two hours later, and to my and my mother’s relief, he walked through the door. He left work early that day. His train pulled out of the station before the truck-bomb went off. There are thousands of people who will never know that sense relief. There will never be a body to lay to rest. My heart goes out to them.
On September 11th I won’t be watching the news. Seeing it happen the first time was hard enough. Writing about it is just as hard. I will continue to pray for the families that were left behind, those who survived Ground Zero, and the soldiers who are still fighting. I will pray for peace.