Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11, 2001

It was a Tuesday. How do we remember these things? I guess that when such serious trauma happens, we instinctively remember little details. Tuesday morning, at about 7:40, I was driving to work, just as I always do, listening to the local DJ team tell jokes & getting call-in jokes. It was a funny, joyful, NORMAL morning. Then one of the DJs broke in to say that a plane had crashed into one of the two World Trade Towers, and that this wasn't a joke. I'll never forget it, he then said, "I don't feel like telling jokes any more today, so we're going to stop now." Right then, I was pulling into my office's parking lot, so I scurrried inside, where one of the typists had a tiny television turned to CNN. I tried going to CNN's website, but my company had blocked access (not just for today - it had been ongoing)

We stood around a tiny TV watching the picture of a jet liner (at that time, they were thinking it was a commuter jet), when we saw the second jet crash into the second tower. Live. Completely not expecting it.

What do you say? What do you do? All I could think was, "I've got to get my kids," who were all in school. Instead, we were told, appropriately, to go about our jobs. So we tried. I went to an assigned school on the other side of town, where a much larger TV was set up in the principal's office. So we watched there, to learn about the jet which went into the Pentagon, and the one which crashed in Pennsylvania. It wasn't until the newscasters said that the theory was that the Pennsylvania jet (United Flight 93) was aiming at the Capital or at the White House that I lost it. What was happening in the world? I was no good at the school (I'm supposed to be COUNSELING, for Heaven's sake!), so I went back to my office.

You need to know this: I live in Louisiana, and my office is literally across the river from Barksdale Air Force Base. Maybe you've heard of it - it's the base that President Bush was evacuated to, when all this started that morning. It's where he made his speech that was broadcast around the world, and parts of which will probably play this morning. The speech that says, "Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts."

President Bush was in Florida, then was scrambled to Barksdale, which was the next best thing to being surrounded by Marines. This base is TOUGH. They're serious there. Bush made his epic speech, then took off for parts unknown. I'm sorry, but no matter what your political leanings, the Secret Service did their job that day. Air Force One played hide-and-seek VERY WELL.

I was standing in the parking lot of my office, watching, when Air Force One took off from Barksdale. There was no circling of the city, no fly-by; the jet LEFT. Oh, and it was accompanied by several fighter jets. That made it real.

Was I touched by all this? YES!!!! Duh! I live in the United States - we're the invincible good guys! My security was shaken to its core. I was ready to leave & create a commune - which wouldn't have worked - my kids like city life. Did I have any personal loss? No. I have a sister who was literally in the air on a business trip when it all started; the plane was grounded, & it took her 3 days to get back home to Virginia. I have military friends who lost personal friends at the Pentagon. That's the closest I came.

Except for this: I died a little on that day. I died a little every time I heard of yet another daddy who wasn't coming home that night; or another fireman who stayed behind & fell with the buildings; or a mom who was on a plane. You all know the stories. You were alive then. You have your own stories. Some of you have true, personal losses. I am sorry. None of you asked for this.

There's one thing I do want to say, & it's in keeping with (in)courage's theme of "Hope" this month. Anne Jackson posted this bit on 9-10, and it smote me with the truth of God:

"The hope that was given to me through the encouragement of others. Because once someone gets a gift like hope, it's now a responsibility to pass on.
To give it away. I can promise you this: if you don't need hope right now, there's someone around you that does. And if you are the one who needs hope today, please take mine.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is a God who is faithful to give you exactly what you need.
The grace.
The love.
The rest.
Whatever it is.
He'll provide it for you, when you can't take it anymore."