I wasn't near lower Manhattan that day, like Meg Cabot was. I didn't lose anyone I knew. Like everyone else around the world, however, I was still effected. This is my quite ordinary story.
When Flights 11, 77, and 93 took off, around 8:14 AM EDT, I was probably sleeping, safe in the mountain time zone. My husband headed off to work at about that time, and my 5-month old son may or may not have woken me up early. I can't remember.
I probably woke up sometime around 8:46 AM EDT, when Flight 11 hit Tower 1. I was a first year law student and had a class to get to that morning. At 8:59 AM EDT, while passengers on Flight 175 made final calls to loved ones on their way to their 9:03 appointment with Tower 2, I was probably feeding and cooing at my son. What with dressing myself and getting the baby ready for the sitter, I didn't have time for the morning news.
At around 9:37 AM EDT, when Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, I would have left my apartment and crossed the quad of the married student housing to drop my son off at the babysitter's apartment. My husband had totaled my car just a few days prior, so I had to walk to school, about ten minutes away.
My babysitter had been watching the news, and told me what had happened. Though I certainly didn't doubt her, it still wasn't real. I didn't know anyone who might have been in danger. The immediate impact on my life was abstract enough that I spent the walk to school being grateful that my worst problem was the lack of a vehicle--and wondering what they'd call the tragedy. "September 11th" was the obvious choice.
Class was scheduled to start at about 8:00 am MDT, as Tower 2 was collapsing. I remember standing in the hallway with other law students, watching one of the monitors in the corner of the ceiling, as professors rushed around. I don't remember being aware of the towers falling in real-time, so perhaps class started later, or it took me a while to wander through the building to see the monitor. About that same time, Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, though we didn't know about that for a while.
Eventually, the professors told us that they'd decided to cancel class. Mainly in the interests of national solidarity, since it seemed unconscionable to go on with our normal lives, pretending everything was fine, just because no one had destroyed one of OUR buildings.
Tower 1 fell at 10:28 AM EST, so by the time I picked up my baby and got home, most of the tragedy was over. I spent the day holding my son, staring at the television, and counting my blessings.
A few years later, I learned that a surgeon I knew had been in New York for a conference that day. As might be expected, they went to area hospitals to help out with what they expected to be a huge influx of wounded. He says that there were no wounded to help. They waited and waited, but no one came needing their skills.
In the patriotic furor that followed that day, my husband and I put a fast-food restaurant window cling in the back window of our new-to-us vehicle. Above the image of the American flag, it says "God Bless America" and underneath it says "September 11, 2001". It's still there today--we've never found an appropriate time to remove it.
All three of my sons have grown up knowing about 9/11. We haven't shielded them from it. Today, while exploring the 9/11 interactive timeline available through the National 9/11 Memorial, I had to remind my 8-year-old that what happened that day is not good fodder for jokes. They understand most of what happened, but not why or what it means for them. They have no nightmares.
Over the last few weeks, my husband and I have been watching the series "Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero" on the Discovery Channel. I highly recommend it--and not just because it turns out it was directed by Steven Spielberg. The series doesn't focus on the tragedy, but on the hopeful future. On the way America is rising from the ashes of tragedy to come back bigger and better than we were before.
The saying goes that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I heard a woman with terminal brain cancer joke once that even things that DO kill you can make you stronger. I pray that the deaths--of people, of ideals, and of some measure of hope--of September 11, 2001, can indeed continue to strengthen us as a nation. We need to get beyond sorrow, hate, and revenge and focus instead on the future, on the triumph of the human spirit. On using our hard-earned strength for good. That's what the heroes of that day did. We can do no less.