Twelve years ago today I was a new mom, just 28 years old. I worked from home for a marketing research firm and divided my days between that job and taking care of our six-month-old. We had been in our house just under a year. Getting there was a nerve-wracking process, since we had moved after only being in our previous house for a few months, and several events happened around the move that caused us financial and emotional grief. I hadn’t given any effort to make friends in our new town, and had very few, including the neighbors we knew a little and the girl down the street who had been my helper over the summer while I worked.
I don’t remember the details of how I felt about life in general that day. Likely I was trying to get acclimated to a new schedule. My son was a high-strung baby but ate and slept well. My husband and I took zillions of pictures of him and traveled to show him off to family or hosted family at our house nearly every weekend.
Around 10:30 in the morning that day, my mother called me to tell me that the young woman who cleaned her house kept calling her to update her on the planes. I was in the dark, had no idea what she was talking about. I never watch TV in the daytime, never listen to the radio. I asked her to explain. She practically yelled in exasperation, “Andrea, two planes crashed into the World Trade Center this morning…”
I don’t remember anything else she said. I turned on the TV and saw what the rest of the world had already known. I was dumbfounded to see the fires, the dust. All four planes had done their damage. Both towers had already collapsed by the time I got to the news. All those people, gone.
The phone rang. It was a co-worker, asking about the project I was helping him with, wanting my portion of it now. I asked him if he knew what was going on in our country. He said that he did but indicated that his work was more important than me sobbing in front of the TV. I told him he’d get the work and hung up on him.
I don’t remember if I did any more work that day.
My son was napping. I dragged him out of bed and brought him downstairs with me, hugging him close. He didn’t mind. We watched the TV together as I cried, his baby-ness and innocence soothing me, keeping me on earth when I felt like I was hurtling into thin air, my body turning inside out. I called my husband and begged him to come home. I was sure that we were at the start of a war, expected to see gun-toting guerillas in my backyard ready to take my home, my son, my country, my life.
There was an email from my husband’s aunt who worked in Washington, D.C., asking if I had seen the news, explaining that she was trying to call her mother to let her know that she was OK. Explained that her building was evacuated, that all the trains were shut down, that she wasn’t sure how she would get home, that she and her co-workers felt like sitting ducks. She asked me to call her mom. Did I call my husband’s grandmother that day? I don’t remember.
The images of people covered in dust, the stories of people jumping from the upper levels, the shoe stores handing out shoes to people forced to walk home from the city, the unimaginable actions of the heroes that had lost their lives to save others, knowing that one of the planes went down in the part of the state where my parents live, the clean-up crews, the grieving families, the never-ending news coverage – watching Katie Couric and Matt Lauer grow more weary and more disheveled as the days and nights wore on, seeing them when I went to sleep late and when I woke up early, my husband and I sitting on our bed watching, watching, watching to see what happened and what was to come: all these details wrap up around that one day, the day that our country changed in so many ways, the dawn of the era that we now live in.
September 11, 2001: I will never forget what I was doing that day. I am only one person from generations of others who can say the same thing about this and other historical events. My story is only one, but it is important because I remember. When we remember important events, we have the responsibility to teach our children about it, to honor those who served, and to remember those who were lost.
What were you doing on 9/11/01? I’d love to hear your story.