Friday, September 11, 2009

Where were you...?

This is an old piece of writing...I believe I wrote it the following year, in anticipation of talking about 9/11 in my classroom, so it's written a little more simply from my usual wordy style. I'm glad I wrote it. I wouldn't have remembered that I was watching when the second plane crashed...or the lines at the gas station. Even now, I can't read it without reacting worrying about my family, and seeing those kids with the flags and poster. What a horrific day that was. It's my memory, and just one of 280 million personal memories from that generation's Pearl Harbor, the day that lives in infamy for us.

As long as I live, I will never forget where I was and what I was doing on 9/11. It was early in the school year, early in the day, and I was in a team meeting with the people of 6B—Nakarado, Timmons, Hartshorn, Smith, Hamilton, and Williams. I was taking notes on the meeting, and we were just about to end. Suddenly, someone-- I forget who it was now—came into the room and told us that a plane had just run into the World Trade Center. We ended the meeting, and got up and went into Mr. Timmons room and turned on the TV. The picture that we saw is now burned into my brain—the tall tower in New York City leaking thick, black smoke. I went back to my room and turned on the TV in my room, too, and so I was watching when the second plane crashed into the two towers. The TV picture changed, and I was watching a long-view shot of Washington DC, where I had just been on vacation that summer, and the announcers were reporting that there was some kind of fire at the Pentagon. I don’t remember hearing about the fourth plane, the one that crashed in Pennsylvania, although I heard about it a lot afterwards.

I don’t believe I got really frightened until I heard that the president was en route to his underground bunker—a place where he could be protected from any and all harm. THAT frightened me, and I shook a little. I remember that all I wanted to do was to go home and gather my family around me so I would know that we were all safe and at home where we belonged.

I e-mailed back and forth with my husband all day and we agreed that we would each pick up one of the children and go to the church. Yes, we agreed, the church. We would feel safe there and take our fears and sorrows to God. As I drove to pick up Ben, I turned down Mitthoeffer, and passed groups of children waving flags and holding up signs that said, “God Bless America”, and I cried for what our country was having to go through. We were unable to get to our church. We had to go through an intersection with three gas stations.People were fearing a gas shortage, and the traffic was backed up for half a mile with cars trying to fill up. In the end, we went home, and watched TV through the night, and saw over and over again, the planes flying in and the towers collapsing. I saw the Pentagon on fire, and the huge crater in the ground, that became a symbol of those brave, brave people on flight #93.

As I write this, I have tears in my eyes remembering some of the images from the TV and the stories of courage and tragedy, of miracles and hope. I also know that it’s very possible that when I read it to you, I may again cry over some of my memories. I think that there may be some of you who wonder why I have tears in my eyes. I wonder, too, why I get so emotional sometimes, so I thought about it awhile, and here’s what I think. The first reason is, I love this country. I am very patriotic. I look back on its glorious history and I’m amazed at the people who have given their lives so that I and my family might live where I want to, and in the way I want to. I honor them with my tears. And second, I cannot stand to see the sorrows of others, particularly when it comes to the deaths of loved ones. When I think of 9/11, I think of the terrible blow that this country suffered and how we have fought back with our pride and our national symbol—the American flag. It’s everywhere, letting the world know that we are indeed the greatest country in the world. And then I think of the human suffering for which 9/11 was only the first day. I think of the 63 children who were never picked up after school by parents who worked at the World Trade Center. I think of Lisa Beamer, whose husband was one of the heroes of flight 93. I think of the hundreds of funerals for police and firemen, who were on their way up, when the Twin Towers came down. Days later, I read the notes I took in the team meeting on that morning of 9/11. The very last sentence read: “The meeting ended, and we all went to watch TV.”


  1. It was you, Liz, that inspired me to dig this out after reading "Friday Fragments". As I said, it's a little on the simplistic side--written for my 5th graders--but I like that I got the details down to remember them...