Sep 11, 2011


September 11, 2001. 

It was a Tuesday morning. I was a freshman in college.

I was standing in my dorm room, brushing my hair after getting out of the shower. I'd already been to my 8 AM biology class, and I was trying to decide whether or not to blow dry my hair. I heard commotion in our common room, so I went out to see what was going on.

My suitemates said a plane had flown into one of the Twin Towers in New York City. I was confused. I didn't understand how a plane could be so off course that it could fly into a building by accident. As I was watching the TV we saw the second plane hit the second tower and without thinking I screamed, "What just happened?"

The coils of grey smoke rising out of that building is an image that will never leave my mind, as is the pit of fear in my stomach as the world I'd known for almost eighteen years was turned upside down.

Not too long after that there were reports that a plane hit the Pentagon. I scurried into my room dialing my parents phone number. I was in Southwestern Virginia at school but I'm from Northern Virginia and my mom works in D.C., and for the life of me, I couldn't remember how close to the Pentagon she was.

My dad reassured me she was fine - she worked as far from the Pentagon as possible while still being in D.C., but I needed to talk to her. I needed to hear her voice. At that point the phone lines were jammed because so many people were trying to call, so I went to a friend's room for the day and curled up, on their bed, watching the coverage, trying my mom's work phone number on and off without any success, and wondering if this was real.

Late in the afternoon I fell asleep for awhile - I needed to escape into nothing. When I woke up, I tried my mom's number again, and this time, instead of a voice telling me all circuits were busy, the line was ringing. A co-worker picked up, and it was hearing that human voice that made my resolve start to waver. I felt like a little kid trying to be brave when I asked to speak to Barb. I was put on hold. (My mom later told me her co-worker recognized my voice and figured I was worried so she went and got my mom from the bathroom so she could come talk to me!)

As soon as I heard my mom's voice, it hit me. I knew in my gut all day she was okay but hearing her voice made it all right. I was simultaneously relieved and grieving all at once - relived she was okay, but realizing how many other people couldn't or wouldn't be able to get a hold of their loved ones.

I asked her what was going on, and in her typical mom-way she said, "Well sweetie, this is terrorism." I'm sure she was overwhelmed as well, but hearing her state that in such a matter-of-fact way made me think I needed to start thinking of others and not just myself. I don't remember what else we said on the phone, and we didn't talk long, but I felt much better afterwards.

In the following days I participated in vigils. I comforted others. I cried. I felt guilty for having everyone in my family safe when I saw others didn't have that luxury. I got angry at the people who did this. I tried (and failed) to understand why. But through it all I was amazed at the unity. People were kinder. They held open doors. They smiled at strangers.

Today I'm mourning those we lost. I'm honoring those who saved others. But I'm also celebrating life. Even when it's hard and seems like it shouldn't, life goes on...we celebrate birthdays today, and run errands, because while we will never forget, we also refuse to live in fear.

And we will always stand united.


Erin said...

Love this post. Thanks for sharing.

Amber @ A Little Pink in the Cornfields said...

Your mom's matter of fact answer made me smile. This also made me tear up. I'm so happy that I was in the Midwest and so far away from everything happening. I cannot imagine what that felt like to worry about your mom until you spoke to her.
Great post!! I don't know how many more of these I can read though, I want to curl up in a ball and just cry all day!

Amber said...

This was such a beautiful post Becky. It gave me goosebumps!

Katie said...

What a wonderful reflection and tribute. Though it did make me laugh that your mom was, of course, in the bathroom when you called :)

tessica said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes, I remember that exact same feeling. Knowing my mom was far from the Pentagon but still needing to hear her voice.

Suburban Sweetheart said...

A beautiful post, Becky. Such a relief to hear that your mom was safe, I imagine - but then the reality sets in, that so many others were not. That day, it almost became difficult to be thankful for our own safety when so many others were experiencing such suffering.

Stephany said...

This post brought tears to my eyes, because I know when things like this happen, we want to know our family is OK most of all. And talk to our mom.

I didn't know anyone living in New York or Washington, D.C. when this happened and I was pretty young so I never felt the impact as others have.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

This brought tears to my eyes, too. I will never forget that day. I was a junior in college and was getting ready for class when I found out what happened. I spent the rest of the day glued to the tv - and the weeks to follow, of course.

I remember the terror and fright, but i also remember how the US really pulled together. I remember it being a non-bipartisan time. People just banded together and yellow ribbons were hung and my friends and I donated blood. It was a terrible, horrible time for our country, but I am proud of how we all responded.

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