I think yesterday was a serious day for everyone, remembering the events of September 11th, ten years ago. I think it was the first attack we have ever had on mainland America, and I think it gave all of us a sense of frightening vulnerability, realizing how hard and how easily we could be hit.
We all have our memories of that day. The shock, the disbelief, the horror, the amazement. I don’t think any of us felt safe for a long time after.
It was 6am in California when the first plane hit the tower. I was in San Francisco, sound asleep, when my children’s English nanny woke me up, very formally. She startled me when she woke up, and even more so with what she said. It was like a bad dream. “I regret to tell you that America is under attack”, she said. By what? By whom? No one attacks America, but they did. I jumped out of bed and turned on the TV, and was horrified by what I saw. And I was frightened too because I had two daughters in college in the East. One was living within blocks of the World Trade Center in New York, and the other in Washington, DC, within blocks of the Pentagon. The one in New York was aware of what was happening, the one in DC was sound asleep, and I told her what had happened (she didn’t believe me), and I told her to look out her window and she could see the billowing smoke rising from the Pentagon. I was worried about both of them, since none of us knew if there would be further attacks. All I could think of was how to get them home. My mother was living in New York too then, and I was worried about her as well.
Like everyone else, I watched TV all day, with two friends. We watched all the astounding images cross the screen. The second tower being hit, the building coming down. The unforgettably awful images of people leaping from windows. The voices from the plane that went down. A woman I knew was on one of the planes that hit the Tower, although I didn’t know her well. And a close friend had changed her travel plans and come home the day before. Destiny, how strangely it affects us. The people who missed those flights (one of my son’s friends missed two of them, by oversleeping for one flight, and being caught in traffic for the other), and the people who were on them after changing plans. It was such a stark reminder that you never know what will happen, or where you are meant to be. I think of it sometimes when I change flights at the last minute.
I don’t think any of us will ever forget that day. We have all seen natural disasters, and been horrified by the devastation. But devastation caused by humans seems so much worse in some ways, the evil that people can do to each other, intentionally. How can anyone ever believe that that is the right thing to do?
The eeriness of our air space being closed for nearly a week, as I recall, and no one being able to travel. The people trapped in Gander, when planes had to land because they couldn’t enter the US. The brave firemen and rescue workers who gave their lives. So many incidents, large and small, so much bravery, so many losses, so many people affected by what happened. Someone said at the time that air travel would never be the same again, and they were right. Think of the security lines we stand on now, the bare feet on airport floors, the million things we have to take off and put in plastic bins, our belts, our cell phones, our jewelry, as we go through metal detectors, the liquids we can’t carry, even a full tube of toothpaste can be confiscated. The pat downs, the dusting for explosives. And probably a terrorist could still get through if they really tried. I’m not sure any of us have really felt totally secure again.
For a long time after 9/11, I wouldn’t let my kids go to major sporting events, or Disneyland, for fear that there would be another big attack. Shopping malls seemed dangerous, or anywhere that large crowds congregated, which would make a likely target to affect large numbers of people. I worried more about my kids.
Ever since that day, each of my children calls me before they get on a plane, just to tell me they love me and to say goodbye. It started on the first flight they each took after 9/11, and they still do it ten years later. And I have to admit, so do I. They call me either walking through the airport, or from the plane before they have to turn off their phones. And since there are so many of them, I call them all on the way to the airport. But I know what that goodbye means when they call me….it’s their ‘just in case’ something happens, I love you, Mom, which always touches my heart. I don’t think any of us will ever be quite the same, or have the same confidence and trust we had before that attack. And if we, who were so removed from it, on the far side of the country, having lost none of our loved ones as the building was hit and then fell, I can only imagine how people felt, and still feel, who lost people they loved on 9/11. And now ten years later, my heart goes out to them again. We will always remember what happened on that day, and think with quiet remembrance of the people who were lost. May nothing like it ever happen in this country again.