Sunday, September 11, 2011

My 9/11

I had just dropped my daughter off at school, then drove to a nearby store to pick up a couple of things. On the way home I turned on my car radio and heard the news about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. They were speculating that it must have been a small private plane of some kind.

When I got home I turned on the TV and saw the second plane hit the south tower. I was watching NBC so it was Katie Couric and Matt Lauer & Al Roker who were starting to speculate that it might have been a terrorist attack.

I called my husband, who was in his office at the church where he worked in Annapolis, and told him what had happened. They brought a TV into the office and turned it on to try to bring in one of the local channels. The TVs there were used for showing videos to classes only so there was no antenna or cable connection. After a few minutes of barely getting a signal they were using a wire as an improvised antenna and watching the news there.

I called one of my friends whose son was in my daughter's class. We were both at home, alone, trying to make sense of it and we stayed on the phone for quite a while, just taking a little comfort in the sound of a familiar voice. Some parents were bringing their kids home from school but I decided letting my daughter's day continue as normally as possible would be best until I knew there was a reason to pick her up.

After the plane flew into the Pentagon my husband came home and together we watched the news. We learned later that the father of one of our daughter's friends worked at the Pentagon. His office was in the section that was hit but he was out of the office that day.

My life was not directly affected, though. I wasn't there in New York or DC. But DC is just a half hour west of us. Our house is in the flight path of BWI airport so the sound of planes overhead was common. Suddenly there were no airliners in the skies at all. But we did see fighter planes turning overhead as they patrolled the skies over DC. Midshipmen in their uniforms had been a common sight around downtown Annapolis but now they were restricted to the Yard (campus). While we had always been able to drive through the Naval Academy no vehicles were allowed anymore unless they had a Department of Defense sticker, a rule that persists to this day. The main entrance to the Academy was changed to allow for tighter security checks.

I remember the first time I saw a passenger jet overhead once they'd been cleared to fly again. I heard it first, then stopped in my tracks and watched until it was out of sight. My heart was heavy for those who had died because an enemy had used those as weapons.

Much has been said and written about 9/11 and I don't think I can add anything to the narrative. When these anniversaries roll around we can't help but turn our attention to those events, though, still trying to make sense of it all, to find some lesson that will last.

I keep thinking of all the people who started that day like any other, getting dressed and going to work as usual. Many found strength and compassion beyond their wildest imagination before the day was done. Lives were lost that day, but many lives were also saved. By ordinary people who started their day like any other. Police officers, Firefighters, or just the guy who worked in the next office.

We need each other.

People may argue about the details of history and the political and diplomatic response to the events of 9/11 or the lasting cultural impact but one thought rises to the top for me whenever I turn my attention to that day.

We need each other.

Life is precious. Each and every one. And we need each other.

I hope we think of that as the news media grows tired of this topic and returns to reporting on the race for the presidency as if it were a sporting event. Which party is winning, which politician is losing this week and what will it all come down to on election day? How you cast your vote determines how the government functions at all levels from the White House down to your neighborhood.

We need each other.

To work together

To look after each other

To make life better for everyone.

Because life is precious.

Each and every one.