The clock radio turned on to signal me that it was time to get up to get ready for work, like every other day before. But this day, would be like no other. It was the day the world stood still.
There was no music playing. There were several DJ voices on the radio sounding confused, hyper and stressed. It was unlike anything I had ever heard before. I remember my confusion as I stumbled out of bed to turn the television on. My brain had not fully awakened yet and I could not understand what all the fuss was about. I knew something major had happened but the magnitude and extent was unclear.
I had slept in that day. I believe my husband must have put my 6 and 8 year old boys on the bus or taken them to their catholic school. We watched together in disbelief as we tried, like the rest of the country to make sense of what had happened and what was currently transpiring. The second plane flew into the tower and then, it was no longer, “a freak accident.” We knew. We were under attack.
The towers fell as I was on the phone with my best friend. I didn’t want to go to work. I wanted to pick my babies up from school and hide in my house indefinitely. I wanted them safe. If there were people in this world capable of doing this, how far would their plan be carried out? What else was in store? Would it, could it extend to their school?
I’m not sure where my head was but I went to work. I was a waitress and money had to be made. I grieved each event with each customer and no one was in any particular hurry.
An older woman came in and was seated in my section. I will never forget how she just sat lifeless in the booth, staring into space. Most of the people who had come in before her were very talkative and wanted nothing more than to work out these events verbally with others to try to grasp what was going on. Not this woman. I had to engage her in conversation. I asked how she was as I placed my hand on her shoulder. “I just came from Logan. I put my sister on flight 93.” We hugged and cried together. I remember the silence of everyone around and how it felt like an eternity. There’s always that first story you hear from another person who was directly affected, that brings in into reality. This was mine.
With each customer who came in there was a new update. Flights were grounded until further notice. What? My Mother-In-Law was a stewardess flying overseas! Where was she? Was she safe? Was anyone I knew in those towers, on those planes? I knew in my heart there was. I don’t remember staying at work the entire shift. We may have closed. I’m not sure. Anything besides the news and how my family was reacting and dealing became a blur.
Over the next several days we touched base with as many people as we could to be sure everyone was safe. Tragedy had not hit our immediate family but it felt as if it had. The entire country was in mourning. Flags were flown from almost every vehicle within days. Flags sold out of every store. The pride of our country was shown and everyone seemed so much more in touch with each other, kinder, gentler. We all had a common thread. We had all witnessed the same tragedy and knew on a deep level what we were all feeling. Strangers banded together.
The children had been told at school what had happened and I felt for the teachers who had to learn the news then face the children in a way as to not panic them. I recall the need to have the news on but to have to shelter the children from the images and turn the TV off when they were around, all the while, feeling as if something may happen closer to home than it had and feeling out of touch when it was off.
I had a spare portable black and white TV and over the next few days it sat on the back counter in the restaurant and between tables we all gathered around it to hear the latest. I was working when President Bush declared war.
I remember sitting in my car, I have no idea how much longer after the events, listening to every name of every person who perished and those who were missing being read over the radio and holding my breath between each one, praying it was not someone I knew. How badly I wanted to be at ground zero to help in any way possible.
Weeks went by and the images were played over and over on TV and timelines and pictures printed again and again in the paper. There was no Facebook, no social media, not on the common level. Yet, we were all connected; even Bostonians and New Yorkers were brothers and sisters.
I recall a comment being made on the radio that we are Americans and we all have A.D.D. They said we would soon forget and it would be put behind us; life would go on and even return to what it was. I didn’t want to believe that. I wanted to believe we would all be a kinder, gentler nation of people, banded together much more closely than before; all of us looking out for each other; having each others backs.
One by one, the flags we flew on our cars became ripped and torn. We replaced them with flag stickers and said we would never forget. Anniversaries of September 11 came and went. It has now been 12 years since the tragedies. I don’t want to remember the events of that day. I don’t want to ever feel that vulnerable again, as a person or as a nation. We still ask, “How could that have ever happened, HERE?”
Today, I have shed my tears in remembrance of the stories of survivors, of so many who were lost that day.
I. Will NEVER. Forget. I will never forget the events, the still pictures and videos that are imbedded in my mind from repetition of play. I will never forget how the words, “United We Stand,” took on a much deeper meaning. I will never forget the way our country banded together and how we all felt united, through the sorrow, the tears, the humanity, the trauma, the healing.
I. Will NEVER. Forget.