It was a day just like any other day. My husband left for work. My second grader and my 5th grader got on the bus and went to school. My 5 year-old and my 21 month-old sat playing on the floor of the family room, as they did every morning, waiting for me to finish listening to the morning news before we changed the background sound to Nick Jr. and Blue’s Clues. As I stood by my table, folding my laundry, the image on the television caught my eye and the tone of the reporter made me stop. It was 8:46 am on the most beautiful September morning. The skies were clear and they were blue. Perhaps it was an accident, a terrible, horrible accident. And then it happened again. At 9:03 am. It wasn’t an accident.
We had just moved to Delaware, OH the previous May. Our children had just started in a new school in a new town. We were settling into our new home and our new routine. It was just an ordinary day. And now it wasn’t.
I immediately called my husband at work, with an overwhelming relief that he wasn’t travelling that day. He travels so much for work and often leaves on Tuesdays. It was Tuesday. I told him what was being reported on the news. He said he would be home soon, and to go get the children at school. I did. By now another plane had flown into the Pentagon…and another had gone down in Shanksville, PA…close to Pittsburgh, the home we had just left.
I brought my children home, but wondered what to tell them, how much to tell them. When the second plane struck the tower, my 5 year-old son was watching. What do you say when big brown eyes look into yours and ask “Mommy, did all of the people on that plane die?” Our oldest was almost 11. He would want to know why I picked him up from school on what he still believed was just an ordinary day. I didn’t have any answers, I can’t even remember what I told him. All I remember is that I wanted them, all of them, in my house and in my arms.
As the day wore on, I remember having them play up in their rooms and setting up videos for them in our bedroom. I didn’t want them watching the news, I didn’t want to watch it myself. But I couldn’t turn it off, couldn’t turn away. The terror of the strikes, the terror of the collapsing buildings, the terror in the eyes of those wandering the streets looking for their loved ones. The terror.
Since we moved to New Jersey, just outside of New York City, I feel the anniversaries of 9.11 in a different way. My children know people who lost someone on that day. I know people who lost someone on that day. We know that the feelings and emotions of that day are never far from the surface for those who called this place home a decade ago.
I will never proclaim that I have felt that loss and that terror in the same way that those directly impacted by 9.11 have felt it. I did not lose a husband, a father, a sister, a brother, a son, a daughter, or a friend. I did not drive my loved one to the airport early in the morning, only to later realize that he wasn’t coming home. I didn’t search for days, weeks, months…holding out hope that I would get a phone call or open my front door and find that my love had somehow survived. I don’t have to hear a name read and a bell toll year after year in remembrance of a victim.
What I hope is that those who live with their loss each and every day, not just on these anniversaries, will also feel the collective embrace of a country that mourns with them, aches with them, cries with them, and moves forward with them. I hope they know we will never forget.