The night had been chilly, but now brilliant, warm sunshine filled our lush, green backyard. The sky was an amazing rich blue and there wasn’t a single cloud in sight. I love early autumn!
Days off from my job at the hospital like today, were highly treasured. Getting to sleep an extra hour, then slowly working around my silent house filled me with peace. On days like this, even the radio in the dining room was seldom turned on.
I tickled my cat Oskar, who was curled up in a patch of sunshine in the middle of the kitchen floor. The phone rang. My 94-year-old mother didn’t bother with a greeting. Sounding anxious, she asked, “Kathy, are you listening to the news?”
Surprised, I answered, “No. I’ve just gotten up. What’s happened?”
In a shaky voice, Mom explained, “A little while ago an airplane flew into one of the World Trade Center buildings in New York. The news reporter said it wasn’t an accident. Someone is attacking the United States!”
I tried to make sense of what Mom had said, unsure of how to answer. Having passed on the horrible news, Mom concluded, “I’ve got to listen to the television to find out what’s going on…bye.”
The linoleum felt warm under my bare feet as I stood thinking about what I should do. My husband Arnie had recently subscribed to a tv dish company, but he had never showed me how to use the remote. I wanted to turn on the television now, but I honestly did not know how. I stepped into the living room, pointed the remote in the right direction and methodically pressed all of the buttons. Nothing happened.
Frustrated, I threw the remote down. We had an old television in one of our upstairs bedrooms. I knew I could turn that one on. A moment later I stood watching both of the twin towers of the World Trade Center burning, with plumes of thick, black smoke billowing up into the clear fall sky. In disbelief I thought, “Dear Lord, there was a second plane?”
The announcers reported that a third airplane had flown into one side of the Pentagon. Horrified, I watched first the south tower crumbling and falling to a dusty heap. Moments later, the north tower doing the same. One shock followed another. The announcer reported a fourth hijacked plane had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
I walked out into my backyard. The sun was bright and warm against my skin and the sky was as blue as a sky has ever been, though silent of the usual sound of planes and empty of their contrails. A breeze rustled the leaves of a nearby tree.
When tragic, horrible things happen, our memory goes into overdrive. People who remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the death of president John F. Kennedy and the events on September 11th in 2001 will often be able to clearly describe every detail of where they were and what they did on those days.
I canned tomatoes that afternoon with my married daughter, praying as we worked.
In the evening I delivered unwanted household items to a friend who had a garage sale scheduled for the following day. I visited with my friend as the sun was setting. Bells of a nearby church began to ring beautifully. I became anxious, wondering what the coming days would be like. Was life as we knew it changed forever?
The car’s gas tank needed to be filled. Since there was a gas station along the way home, I decided to stop. I found dozens of cars and trucks lined up waiting for a turn at the pump. There was another gas station closer to home so I decided to try that one. Dozens of cars and trucks were waiting in line there, also. Deeply worried, I went home without gassing up. Fortunately, gasoline didn’t run out or needed to be rationed in the weeks that followed.
The 9-11 date sticks in my mind, reminding me of the emergency numbers we call when we need help. In a way, the date was an emergency call, not for help, but as a warning to not become too complacent. Not everyone in this world loves the United States as we do.