Today is the 13th anniversary of one of the worst days in American history. I am sure many of us remember where we were and what we were doing that horrific fateful day. I was working at NASA as an education project manager and journalist. I had an interview that day with one of my subject matter experts onsite at 10:30 a.m.
I had just gotten out of the shower, and had walked into the kitchen in my towel to get a glass of water, when I noticed on the television that a plane had flown into one of the Twin Towers. The sound was down on the television, so I couldn’t hear what was going on and just thought there had been an accident. About that time, my phone rang. I answered it, and my sister, almost frantically, asked if I had heard what happened. I explained to her that I had been in the shower, but from what I was looking at, some fool had hit one of the towers. At that point, as I am watching the television, another plane struck the other tower.
“What the hell is going on,” I asked my sister. She is a first grade teacher and was at school, which is why I thought it so odd that she had called me.
“We are being attacked!” she replied, her voice cracking.
“No, we’re not,” I said. “We are not being attacked! No way!!”
She asked me if I was going to work that day. “Yes,” I said, “I’m getting ready to go in and interview this cool scientist.”
I was stunned, as she begged me not to go in. “You can’t go in today! Please stay home!”
“I have to,” I told her. “This guy’s real busy and I have been trying to pin him down for weeks. This is going to be an awesome interview and I’m not going to miss it.”
“You CAN’T go in to work. PLEASE stay home today – NASA could be a target,” at this point she is crying so hard I can barely understand her. She continues to plead with me to stay home and not go to my place of work.
“Okay, okay. Calm down. Let me get online and see what’s going on. If it’s a true threat, the center will post a message telling employees and contractors not to come in. Let me get dressed and then I’ll check it out and call you back.”
“Okay, we’re on lock-down here, so call me back,” she said as we hung up.
I got off the phone, and got dressed, combing out my hair wondering if we were truly under attack ,and if so what would that mean. I turned the TV up so I could hear it. Back then, my Internet access was dial-up, so I couldn’t be on the phone (no smart phones back then either) and get online.
I got on my computer and signed in via VPN to the local intranet for my NASA center. I didn’t even have to log-in to the internal network when I saw the message that all NASA centers were closing down and would be closed until further notice, and all non-essential employees were instructed to leave.
I called my sister back and assured her I wasn’t going to work, and asked how things were going at school. Some of the teachers were freaking out, and this was starting to make the kids uneasy. They were all doing the best they could to keep things as normal as possible under the circumstances.
I called my husband at work, and he and his co-workers had found a television and were gathered around watching in shock, too. I thought about my child and her safety – but had already heard her school was on lock-down, too – no one in and no one out; so nothing I could do there at this point. (Yes, I must admit, this made me quite uneasy as a mother!)
Okay, now I was in total disbelief and was completely glued to my television. (Actually, as a journalist, by this point I had 3 TV’s on – the 2 with recording capability were set to record different channels.) I had hoped that this Twin Towers accident was all just being blown out of proportion, but by now the Pentagon had been hit, also.
New York City was completely shut down – all airspace, bridges and tunnels. Then one of the towers collapsed. Then the second tower collapsed. I watched this and was absolutely horrified at the images I was seeing and the knowledge I was now aware of. The fate (and heroic measures) of Flight 93 were now being discovered, as well. [My timeline may be off a little, but I believe this is an accurate one.]
At some point, it was announced that ALL flights in the continental United States airspace were grounded. This had never happened in my lifetime; as a matter of fact this had never happened before in American history. As I sat and watched all of this play out in my living room, I was completely shocked. I was on the phone here and there when people who knew I might be home would call for more info.
I continued to watch all day and late into the night. The United States was on its highest military alert next to ready for nuclear attack. (I believe we were at DEFCON 2.) I woke early the next morning to see the news coverage continuing. It was like this for days (as almost all regular programming on television had been pre-empted), and after about three days, I had to disengage for a bit. That’s when having a large CD and movie collection helps.
I was also about to turn 40 and had a huge party planned, margarita machine rented and all. This had been planned for months. I had no idea if I should still have the party under the circumstances. Though it was planned for 4 days after the attack, I just wasn’t sure I was in a partying mood, of if anyone else would be either.
I discussed it with several family members and friends, and I decided to go ahead and have the party. Looking back on it, I’m so glad i did, as it was obvious people needed something fun to focus on. People needed to laugh and spend time with those they cared about and loved. THIS is what living and life is all about. The terrorists want us to live in fear – that’s one of their goals. I think I can safely say, as a nation, we do not live in fear, per say – though there is a huge amount of information and data gathering as a result.
My heart went out to all of those involved, those who knew the fear, had a sense of what was coming, those who died just for being there, and those who died trying to save those in the wrong place at the wrong time. This country may be divided on many things, but I think we all feel the same about the events of this day. As a country, we were violated. We were raped. We were maimed. And after the reality of what had happened set in, we were outraged.
[I am sure many who live in other parts of the world wonder about American’s “false sense of security.” They wonder why we feel we are above being attacked on our own soil. It’s not that we think we are above it all, it’s that except for the American Revolution and our own Civil War this is not part of our experience – particularly anyone alive today; that was not part of our everyday world. It has been mentioned in a few conversations I have had that our location on Earth with the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans separating and buffering us from Europe and Asia and the Middle East, have made us less of a target than many other countries. But if we were attached in land mass, things might very well be different. I don’t know, thoughts for another day, maybe. I have a few thoughts that might be for another day, but not for today.]
Today, on the anniversary of one of the worst days in the history of this country, I am bowing my head in respect, honor, reflection, sorrow, and prayer. I don’t mind telling you, I shed many tears as I wrote this. I can only hope this never happens here again . . .
I wish this kind of violence, murder, intimidation and oppression never happened anywhere, but I know that’s not even a pipe dream . . .
Just something I was thinking about today . . . Peace ☮ ~ ☮ ~ ☮
Just realized this is my 50th blog post!