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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where were you on September 11, 2001

Taken January 1997 from a ferry on our way to Ellis Island
Geneabloggers made a call for us to write a post today about where we were when the towers fell.  I made the decision to join the call and write to you, and my future family, what was going on in my life that day.  It is amazing that 11 years later how many details are still cemented in my brain about that day.  Part of recording family history and genealogy is collecting the stories of your family, most of whom have died long ago. Few people remember that you need to collect your stories too so that future generations can know you as well. This is a story I can tell for my kids, and thier kids.

I woke up early to the calls of my almost one year old from his crib.  It was a beautiful sunny Tuesday morning in rural Indiana.  Just a touch of fall in the air and I could smell the nearby farms that had started cutting hay.  Clear blue skies with promise of a great day. 

As a stay at home mom to a 25 week preemie I had one focus in my life, my son.  Tuesday for my preemie baby was developmental therapy day and I had a laundry list of things to do before the therapist got there at 9 am.  Mr. Man was in a surprisingly good mood and I wasn't going to question it.

My husband's job at that time required him to travel every week to the client site.  For the past 2 years he had been leaving Monday morning for his office in Manhattan and returning home to us Friday evening.  We had talked the night before and I knew they were in the middle of big project that was going to have him working until all hours at his office on 5th Avenue.  Thankfully he had an apartment only a few blocks away, over near the UN.

After breakfast I placed the baby in his play pen for a few minutes so I could take a quick shower.  The therapist would be there in an hour and I still needed to pick up the living room and vacuum the floors.  Mr. Man was playing away with his toys and I had The Today Show on in the background for noise as I started the morning routine.  It was my way of trying to keep sane with only the two of us in the house.  The hosts of The Today Show, Katie Curic and Matt Laurer, had commented on how beautiful it was there in Manhattan that morning, and I remember hoping my husband would be able to enjoy a bit of the weather.  Secretly I was trying to plan out our next trip out there. (You can read her reount of the day here.)

File:Manhattan smoke plume on September 11, 2001 from International Space Station (ISS003-E-5388).jpg
This image or video was catalogued by
Johnson Space Center of the United States
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
under Photo ID: ISS003-E-5388
Found at Wikimedia
Half an hour later I started the tidying up for the therapist.  The machine was loud, and I just happened to glance at the TV when I saw the tower on fire.  From that moment on I was glued to the television.  The therapist arrived on time as I was talking to my mother-in-law and saw the second plane hit.  She had tried to call my husband but could not get through.  The cell towers were on the Trade Center, and there was now no signal.  My sons therapist was always the best, and she promised to call and reschedule as the phone rang again from another relative. 

Finally about 9:30 my husband was able to get to his office and call me.  Only the land lines worked, and he was with all of his co-workers in their office looking down 5th avenue at the smoke and the burning Buildings.  He promised to call me again as soon as he could.

As I hung up with him the reports of the attack on the Pentagon come in.  My gut wrenches again.  My fathers cousin was a General and his last post was the Pentagon.  Could he have still been there?  Was he at this new duty station? Now, the other half of the family living in Indiana are calling me to see if I can get news on our cousin.  All we can do is wait.

I watched the towers collapse with my son in my lap sitting on the floor of the living room with the tears running down my face. At one point I was on the phone with a good friend from college, the maid of honor from my wedding, and I remember screaming as I saw the buildings collapse.  It was like having you heart torn out.  Everything was in slow motion, my mind not wanting to believe what my eyes saw.  I truly grieved, with my whole heart, for all those that were lost and again when the reports of the plane down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

My mom in Iraq 2003
For hours we sat and listened and watched and cried.  Glued to the news, wondering how much more tragedy would be coming that day.  I knew that my sons world would never be the same. I was viewing a pivotal moment in time, history in the making, and nothing would ever be the same again.  My mom was in the Army and I knew that she would be out there, in some form or another, fighting against this new threat.  She did.  As a member of the 745 FST attached to the 3rd ID her unit was part of the initial push into Iraq two years later. 

The uncertainty was palatable in the air every where you went for the next few weeks, even months, and I clung to my family.  Thankful that my husband finally made it home, nearly a week later, in a truck crammed with men from his office who lived in Ohio and Indiana.

Not all my memories from that time are bad, thankfully.  The most striking memory I have in the days following the attacks was the way the sky looked.  For the first time in my life there were no trails in the sky from airplanes.  It was clear, blue, cloudy on occasion, but the familiar criss-cross lines of all the airplanes were missing.  Beautful.  My father told me that now I knew what it was like when he was a kid.  Just blue skies and natural clouds.

For the past 11 years conversations have turned again and again to where were you on 9/11.  We listend to a friend from college tell how she was in a conference near the trade centers when they heard a terrible rumble.  They looked through the windows and saw the first plane hit the tower just a few blocks away.  Other friends who were evacuated from DC after the plane struck the pentagon and listend to thier descriptions of the the smell of the black smoke in the air.  Everyone has a story, and for those who were there they need to share.

The December after the attacks I sat at a Holiday Dinner with my mother's family.  With us was the last few members of my grandmother's generation.  My Great-aunt Bertie told us about Peral Harbor.  She could remember exaclty where she was, what was playing on the radio, and what happened that day in December 1941.  She told us that this was our Peral Harbor.  This event would define us as poeple and as a nation.

My sons have never known a world without the impact of 9/11.  All I can do is hope for a better world before I have to let them go into it on their own.

File:Flag - 3rd Infantry.jpg
Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry render honors as fire fighters and rescue workers unfurl a huge American flag over the side of the Pentagon as rescue and recovery efforts continued following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. The flag, a garrison flag, sent from the US Army Band at nearby Fort Myer, Virginia, is the largest authorized (20 x 38) flag for the military.
Image from Wikimedia

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