Like many around the world, my thoughts these past few days have often turned to the events of that horrible Tuesday morning in 2001. I can hardly believe it has been 10 years. I’m one of those people who think of it often, at least once a week but probably more like daily. Of course, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I found out about the World Trade Center attack. I was still married at the time, living in rural Missouri. My daughter Kirsten was 11 months old and Seth was 3. I worked at Wal-Mart and was not scheduled to work until 4 that afternoon. I slept in that morning and got up around 9. I don’t think we’d had breakfast yet. I remember getting on my computer and my husband turned on the TV but he was watching a movie or something. I checked my email and had 3 messages from my sister, telling me the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane and that we were under terrorist attack. I told my husband to turn the TV to the news and saw that the second tower had been hit during the time it took me to tune in. I don’t think there are words to describe how I felt when I saw the smoking towers. Devastated, terrified. My heart ached for the lives lost. At that point, I’d never been to New York City but I felt as if part of me was a New Yorker. I don’t know how to explain it. I felt as if my home had been attacked. I spent most of the day in front of the TV, watching the horrific events unfold. I clearly remember Dan Rather listing the planes that had been hijacked and saying he couldn’t believe he was saying these words. I was terrified someone I knew, perhaps a New Kid or a pen pal from back in the day had been on one of those planes. It was all so unreal. The world definitely changed that day. A few hours into the coverage, after the Towers had collapsed, my husband changed the channel and started watching “The Bad News Bears.” I couldn’t believe it. How could he watch a movie like that when the world was falling apart around us? I guess we had very different ways of dealing with the tragedy. I was in tears, physically ill from what had happened and he wanted to watch a feel-good movie. I couldn’t grasp it. He looked at me like I was crazy and asked “Did you know someone in New York or something?” Um, no, do I have to in order to be devastated? Not to bash him, I just can’t understand why he couldn’t understand my overwhelming emotions. I knew that day we would end up divorced. Six months later, we were separated. I knew I couldn’t stay married to someone who couldn’t understand how I felt. I know I can’t explain it myself but…anyway.
Since phone lines were jammed all over the country, I was unable to talk to any of my family and friends although I tried to call my parents and sisters several times. I didn’t have a cell phone. I instant messaged with my sister, Abby, all day. She was taking it just as hard as I was so she was my lifeline that day. I didn’t want to go to work that afternoon and I almost called in but my husband told me I was overreacting, that I didn’t have a valid reason for missing work. I couldn’t imagine someone would go to put something on layaway that night, but I went into work anyway. I felt numb and sick to my stomach. There were no other cars on the road and no planes in the sky. So surreal. To my surprise, Wal-Mart actually did have customers and everyone else had gone to work, too. I remember when my friend Jolene came in and as she clocked in, I just walked up to her and we embraced. We didn’t say anything but we needed each other. What could you say? I was so relieved to hug someone, to know someone else was feeling much like I was. She and Abby were really there for me that day and afterwards as we all tried to recover. Driving home that night was so strange. No clouds or planes in the sky. I will never forget that feeling.
It was beautiful to see how everyone came together in the coming days. People always talk about New Yorkers like they’re rude and don’t care about anyone but themselves, but I think we all saw how strong and resilient New York really is. Its people are among the best in the world. Sure, there are bad people there like everywhere, but it is the best city in the world. When I finally made it to NYC in January 2010, I fell in love. The city feels like home to me in a way no other place has and I plan to someday make it my home. I already feel I am an NYC Girl at heart. I wish I was there today and would be there tomorrow to see the memorial. I will definitely take a trip to the memorial next time I go to the city. What’s funny is on that trip to NYC in Jan 2010, we got lost on our way out of town and somehow ended up next to ground zero. We couldn’t see anything except a tall fence with a sign on it for WTC1. I don’t think construction had even started yet. But just being there, even though we were in our car on the outside…words can’t express. It was amazing and it gave me hope. I’d hated the design for WTC1 when I first saw it but now I think it’s a beautiful building and just seeing the construction feels me with hope and happiness. Here is the picture I took:
Later, in the summer of 2010, we returned to NYC for the NKOTB shows at Radio City Music Hall. On our last full day in NYC, Abby, Pennie and I went to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty. While there, we of course had excellent views of Manhattan across the water. I was unprepared for the flood of emotion I felt when I saw the hole where the twin towers once stood. I became overwhelmed and started to cry. All I could think of was I wished I had gotten the chance to see them in person. Now all I had was a gaping hole. The unnecessary loss of life hit me like a gut punch. I was glad for my sunglasses because I was near sobbing. All Americans lost a lot that day. I, for one, will never forget.
I remember that the slogan was Never Forget for a long time after 9/11. Yet sometimes it feels like too many of us have. We get so comfortable in our lives, we often forget the ultimate sacrifices and wake-up calls from that day. I just pray nothing like that ever happens again. In the months before 9/11, the movie Pearl Harbor came out and yeah, it was pretty crappy, but I remember thinking America was going to be hit like that again and we were going to be completely unprepared. I hate how right I was. Please just remember how quickly our world was changed forever. Never forget and tell the ones you love that you love them. Truly live and remember. xoxo