9 11 — A Retrospective

September 11, 2001: It’s 8:45 a.m. and I am quite relieved to have gotten my 4-year-old, 2-year-old, and 4-month-old into their car seats for the first MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting of the year. Believe me when I say that this was no small challenge, as it involved climbing into the backseat of a fairly small car with an infant, and then two toddlers.

Fifteen minutes later, I’d deposited each child in her classroom and had reached my seat in the moms’ meeting room, when the leader stepped to the podium and said that, “in light of what’s going on,” we would open with prayer.

Huh?

I’m a big news junkie, but getting three kids under age 5 ready had done a number on my news-watching. I’d had no time that morning to check the TV or the internet.

After the leader prayed, she told us that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

World Trade Center … that sounds vaguely familiar. New York?

She said that no one knew for sure what was going on, but that there were some reports that banks were going to be frozen, and so maybe we would want to call our husbands and see about getting some money out …

What on earth? What is going on here? Is this 1929 or something?

I usually looked forward to Mops meetings. They were a welcome 2-hour break from the kids and a chance to share tales with other women in similar situations. But right now, I wanted nothing more than to grab my kids, head back home, and flip on the news. What was going on?

I just couldn’t sit there and concentrate on making a Christmas ornament from artificial flowers, so I headed to the nursery, ostensibly to check on my daughter. The workers had set up a TV, and I asked them what was happening.

Well, two planes hit the World Trade Center. Another plane hit Camp David. They think more might be headed to Washington …

Good grief. It was the longest Mops meeting I’d ever attended, and I was greatly relieved to reach home. The radio announcers talked on and on.

“Did you realize that today is September 11 — 9 11? That’s the number you dial for an emergency. This was no accident …”

The news reports — and images — were unbelievable.

And the mystery as well: who would do this? To the U.S.? We were the good guys, for Pete’s sake.

The days to come brought an uneasy feel. Life had somehow changed; nothing felt as secure. Watch out for the mail … it could be contaminated by anthrax. I was grateful to live in Nowhere, Indiana, and yet perhaps Nowhere was a fitting follow-up to the grand first act in the nation’s biggest city.

You just didn’t know. That was the problem.

I remembered a little Muslim boy I’d taught in third grade. His family celebrated all the Muslim holidays, and I’d allowed him to come to school dressed in his Muslim garb and even show the class how he prayed on his little prayer mat. At the time, I thought what a neat, cultural difference for the class to watch and learn from! Now, the thought sent shivers down my spine. I would never allow such a thing anymore.

9 11 dollar bill folding twin towers world trade centerEmail after email arrived, spouting rationales, superstitions, and even the ridiculous: did you know that you can fold a dollar bill to show the World Trade Center going up in smoke?

How has life changed for you since 9 11? Where were you on that day?

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5 thoughts on “9 11 — A Retrospective

  1. I was getting ready to go to work at the Middle School and had the Today Show on. I don’t watch it – just listen as I scurry around. Then they began an interview with Teddy Kennedy. I thought – I am NOT going to listen to that man and turned the TV off! I wish I had not because when I turned it on some time later, the first Twin Tower had been hit. I remember thinking, “Is this like Pearl Harbor?” I remember Mother talking about the horrible feeling she had on THAT day.
    My third daughter had married on Saturday and this was the following Tuesday. I went to Foods Plus concerning some negatives I was having copies made of and in that store I heard about the second hit. Then when I got to the Middle School a crowd was gathered in the library as we watched in horror as further things unraveled.
    The world has never been the same.

  2. It troubles me that we’re rearing an entire generation in the shadow of that one day. My son was 13 – he’s never really known anything but a “post 9-11 world” – his friends are STILL joining the service and being deployed, and many of his contemporaries have been killed in service. His first trip to NY City included a trip to Ground Zero – where there is STILL a big hole in the ground.

    A decade later, we’re still caught between the collective fear of “another attack” and rampant political correctness. Ten years after Pearl Harbor, we had defeated the enemy and celebrated victory; today, we continue to wallow in national self-pity.

  3. I posted about this today on FACEBOOK. I didn’t get to see any of it. The lawyer I was working with refused to stop. I missed it all till late that night. I missed the memorial service at the National Cathedral with Billy Graham to due to the same obsessive woman and her stupid Fanny Mae forms!

    I remember we DID have a prayer meeting (vonluntary) at lunch time (i.e. on our “own” time) and some people were pretty freaked out to be on the 20th floor of a high rise. Since Indy wasn’t high on the threat list, and likely never will, be I didn’t worry about that.

    I say this not to put anyone down–a tragedy like that is a tragedy. Just that my “where were you moment” was not necessarily the same as so many.

    The images ARE haunting, but I’m going to scream if I hear the word “iconic” again this week. These are REAL PEOPLE not “icons” and their death was a horrific one. Their families will not and cannot “recover” from this.

    Still, like I said on FB, my life didn’t really “change” in some Oprah-like way. Yes, we actually had to USE the metal detectors at the Marion County Courthouse and yes, the State House finally GOT metal detectors, but since I don’t pack heat it wasn’t a big deal. Yes, we have the tighter airport security, but I’ve been to other countries–this isn’t new, it’s just new to Americans. Sadly, I’m ashamed to say it made me look at people from the Middle East differently (I’ve gotten over that). I thought of the Middle Eastern student assistants I’d had in one job, the one I even dated. It shook me for a little while, then I remembered there are extremists in every culture and moved on.

    What else do I remember? An attorney who cried over the poor rescue dogs and then said she was glad she hadn’t taken a job in New York….Yeah. And, I remember thinking very rudely that on some future WALTONS-type show some character would be offered a job at Cantor-Fitzagerald and would start work on, yep, 9/11. That wasn’t nice of me. My other mean, not proud thought was “if this had happened in, say Indy or Peoria, would anyone care? Would it make page 1? Probably not for long. Cynical I know. Not proud of it.

    Mostly I think of the families–the wives, husbands, parents and kids of big-time bond traders, legal secretaries, housekeeping staff, security guards–the very same type people I worked with day in and day out. That part was bone-chilling. These were my world, too. Same folks, different city. They break my heart to think about. That family that will never be the same.

  4. My husband was on routine deployment on the USS Carl Vinson in the gulf when this happened.

    I was at work and we were actually emailing back and forth that morning. I told him what happened – they didn’t know yet, when the first plane hit.

    All email stopped for days right after that.

    Then the night before we struck back I got a single email with one line: “we’re going to hit ’em”

    I will never ever ever forget that email.

    The next day Operation Enduring Freedom began.

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