At 8:48am, the phone rang and startled me from my sleep. We had returned from our honeymoon less than a week before that morning and since I wasn't teaching full-time, I had the privilege of sleeping in some days during the week.
Andy, from his desk, said, "Turn on the TV. You're going to want to see this. Tell me what you see. John said a plane crashed into the World Trade Center."
I'm a news hound so I like to be on top of the latest news developments. I walked out from our apartment bedroom and over to the television. I hadn't grabbed my glasses or contacts so I couldn't see very well. But standing just a few inches from the television, I couldn't have missed that sight and I'll never forget it. Andy's coworker, John, is a small aircraft pilot and it was initially thought that the plane that crashed was a small plane not unlike those that John flies. So we were concerned that a pilot may have made a catastrophic mistake. But as I stared at the amount of thick, black smoke, it quickly became obvious that it was a much larger craft that had smashed into that building.
As I explained it to Andy, he was relating what I was saying to his gathered co-workers, as they couldn't get access to any news websites because of the sheer volume of people trying to get information. I told Andy I'd call him back and we hung up.
I ran to our bedroom and grabbed my glasses because I was having a hard time believing my eyes. Just as I sat back down, the second plane approached and devastated the other tower. I immediately called Andy back and told him that another plane hit the other building--and I knew immediately that this was no accident. I screamed, "What's going on!!???!!" as if someone would hear me and answer.
Mesmerized, I couldn't move all morning. I called Andy to tell him that the first building had fallen and he said that everyone was heading down to the lobby to watch the two televisions tuned to CNN. He said that the lobby area was crammed full of people trying to get a glimpse of what was happening.
Shortly after the second building fell and the crash into the Pentagon, along with other reports of more hijacked planes and car bombs in Washington, the CEO of LexisNexis announced that they were closing for the day and everyone should go home to be with their families. What we didn't know at the time was that some employees of LexisNexis' parent company, Reed-Elsevier, had been killed during these horrific attacks.
Andy called to tell me that he was heading home (after stopping at Best Buy to purchase a new CD that had come out that morning----ugh). When he got there, I hugged him and was so thankful to have him home.
Together, we watched the day's developments and out the window of our third-story apartment, we watched the skies fall silent. We had always enjoyed our great view of downtown and of all of the planes flying in and out of Dayton airport as well as a smaller Moraine airport. For several days, we saw nothing flying and it made for an eerie feeling.
As 3pm approached, I waited for a call from Sylvan Learning Center where I was scheduled to teach that night but the call never came. So I showered, dressed, and left for work. As I drove the 5 miles to work, I encountered only 3 cars, as everyone was elsewhere, captivated by the terror of that day. When I arrived at work, we had only a few students show up and those who did come were picked up early. So it was a wasted few hours and I was happy to come home.
I watched the rescue and recovery efforts over the next weeks and learned about the heroism and valor of seemingly "regular" folks. I was amazed by the hard work and dedication of citizens from all over the country. As I heard the stories of those who were missing and those who had miraculously survived, to say I was moved, touched, or inspired is complete inadequate.
We were so young in our marriage, so young in our lives, and so infantile in our understanding of true valor. Now, as the mother of two beautiful daughters and new baby on the way, as I watch the dedication of the Pentagon Memorial today, I am struck by a new magnitude of understanding. I'm so grateful that my children will simply read about that day in history books and through stories we will tell them. My heart breaks for the parents who, on that day, were sitting with and reassuring their children on those planes, watching the tragedy unfold on television, or received phone calls from children saying goodbye as they readied themselves to sacrifice their lives to prevent further destruction.
Our lives will never be the same. Our children's lives will never be the same. And our country will never be the same. I imagine that that's how the passengers of Flight 93 who fought against the evil of the hijackers would want it to be.
May God's grace comfort those families who suffered losses, those responders who sacrificed so much to save the lives of so many, and those who work tirelessly to prevent further destruction.