On the day it happened, I was still sleeping. My husband who, usually gets ready for work quietly, suddenly spoke with subtle, yet alarming concern to inform me that “There’s a fire in NYC and they can’t seem to put it out…”
My first thought was to dismiss it. But my husband- who usually doesn’t watch the 24/7 news cycles- seemed intent on following this story.
So I finally sat up and strained to hear what they were saying on CNBC. There it was, a small fire coming from some windows in a high-rise building. CNBC was the channel my husband watched everyday before heading off to work. Hearing the voice of Mark Haines trying to make sense of the unfolding events was eerie and unsettling; yet he mostly managed to maintain his usual professional composure.
I don’t recall at what point I decided this was serious– I simply remember feeling irritated that the Authorities had not yet put out the fire. My thoughts didn’t jump too far ahead of that. I reasoned City Fire Codes and Ordinaces had been observed, so there was no danger of a Chicago- or San Francisco- style fire burning up the entire city of New York.
I just wanted to go on with my day. I had plans and goals and places to see.
Our daughter was safely playing in the family room, just outside our bedroom door. Ms. Maria, the nanny, had already fed her breakfast and she’d gone for a stroller ride around the neighborhood eating cookies and drinking juice. Ms Maria had been hired to watch her while I studied for my two remaining architectural licensing exams.
Then the words “the plane was intentionally flown directly into the building” suddenly captured my full attention. I ran out into the family room, greeted Ms. Maria, and turned on the bigger screen TV. We both stood and watched in horror as the second plane hit the other tower. My first reaction was to declare: “This is an act of war! Our country has been attacked!”
Ms. Maria, an otherwise non-political person, immediately said: “I bet it was Saddam Hussein!”
But who was he to do that I questioned out loud? I think she said, he is evil and he is the only one capable of such an act.
I was in shock and not fully convinced, but satisfied to at least have some bad guy’s name to (temporarily) blame it on.
My next thoughts were a series of possible unfolding scenarios: Were we facing the imminent threat of nuclear war? Or a hostile takeover of The White House? In an all-out panic, I grabbed my then 18-month old daughter and the cordless home phone, ran outside onto the concrete driveway, and called my mom who was at work and started rambling on for several minutes.
Without taking a breath, I said: “I’m not ready to meet God.” “I don’t want to see my baby’s skin melt off her bones.” “Where can we go to find safety?” “Let’s move to France!” In short, I was hysterical. My top priority was to protect my daughter at all costs. And my next priority was to get right with God.
For me, the tragic events of 9/11 were a clear, stark wake up call.
I’ll never forget the first Sunday back to church a few days after the horrific events. Our Pastor stood to begin his sermon and then he paused and said: “I have nothing to say…” And he then went on to describe our country’s moral state and how he hoped that God’s hedge of protection we’d enjoyed for so long was not down.
The hymns we sang were non-melodic and the words fell heavy in the sanctuary. It seemed nothing could lift our broken, confused spirits.
My journey to find peace with God continued over a period of five years with reading many books, attending Bible studies, meeting with people from my church, praying, listening to uplifting Christian music- interspersed (interrupted, informed?) by the continuous news reports)- and searching for answers to questions I’d never asked before and some that I’d asked but was now in the demand-to-know mode.
I’ll leave it there for now…
Thank you for letting me share.
So, what about you? Where were you on 9/11 and what impact did it have on you personally?
Please feel free to share your unique stories and perspectives in the space provided below.