Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where We Were

August 1998

I know it is typical to say where we were on days when history changed. I know my parents always talked about where they were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated or when they watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. For our generation, 9/11/01 was one of those days. I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at where I was. And I'd love to hear where you were and what you were doing in the comments as well!

On September 11, 2001, I was at school, in my classroom. I was about four weeks into my third year of teaching sixth grade language arts at Piedmont Middle School. Piedmont is a desirable little bedroom community about 15 miles west of Oklahoma City. It's where people live who want land, but still close access to city life. The morning was sunny, calm and bright. A typical September morning in Oklahoma. I remember that week was Spirit Week. Piedmont High School had a big football game coming up on Friday night, so we were dressing up each day leading up to Friday night's event. Monday had been pajama day, my favorite day because I got to wear pajama pants to work!  Tuesday, September 11th, was camo day. Most of the kids in my class were wearing camouflage pants or vests or hats (allowed for Spirit Week only). Me, not owning a lick of camo anything, wore my gray "Army" t-shirt that I had purchased at the Army Surplus store years ago (along with a hideous pair of black combat boots that I thought looked cool at the time. Sigh...it was the mid-1990's) and a pair of olive green cargo pants I had from Old Navy. It was the best I could do.

Anyway, the day was moving along as any normal day would have. My first hour class came and went and as the kids were at their lockers during the 5 minute "passing time" my friend who taught directly across the hall from me told me her husband had called her saying a plane had flown into one of the Twin Towers in New York City. My first thought was that it had been a small plane, perhaps a touristy type of "see New York from the sky" kind of deal. However, it must have been a big deal because her husband wouldn't have called otherwise. Without much else to go on, it was time to start my second hour class. Once I had taught the lesson and the kids were in their seats working, I quietly called Mike to see what he knew. And that was when I found out. And I just couldn't fathom it. I was in a portable building that held six classrooms just beside the main middle school building. We had no TV's in our rooms and no one had a "smart phone" yet. Even the computer in my room wasn't hooked up to the Internet. It was that old school out there.

Mike was not only devastated by the horrific news, but he was concerned about his family. Mike's parents, sister, brother, grandmother, nieces and nephews all live in either New Jersey or Long Island. They all work in New York City. Mike's dad was supposed to be flying out of the Newark airport on a trip to Ethiopia. He had tried calling all of them, but no one was answering. The lines were overwhelmed and we were in the dark. That was a very helpless feeling.

Finally, at lunch time, we rolled an old television, circa 1984, over from the library and used the ancient antennae to find one channel to watch. And we saw the planes. And the chaos. And the destruction. And the hate. Our mouths were all hanging open. There were no words, just interjections like "Oh my God!" and "No!" The next two hours of classes were brutal. The kids had heard whispers of what had happened and had questions for which we had no answers. No one could concentrate on anything. Finally, school was let out an hour early. I drove home in a daze. Mike still hadn't heard from his family. I pulled into my driveway at the same time as my neighbor who was home early from work. She and I waved to each other as we stood by our cars. Normally we would have chatted awhile, but that was not a day for idle chit-chat. We just quietly walked up to our front doors and into the safety and comfort of our own homes.

For the rest of the night, I did what a lot of people did--eyes transfixed on the television reports. Mike came home early and finally we heard from his family. All were safe. We thanked God for that. Mike's dad's flight had been canceled. His trip to Ethiopia moved back a few weeks. I checked in with my mom and dad. Even though I knew they were in Oklahoma City and not New York, I needed to hear their voices. My mom's voice was always a comfort. 2001 was three years before we had our girls, so thankfully we had no kids to console. It was just the two of us. We spent a lot of time talking about it, then turned the TV off and went to bed. It was just too much.

Today, over a decade later, I still remember the little details of 9/11. Where were you that day?

2 comments:

Lisa (aka Mollie's mom) said...

I was in Mrs. Harris's first grade class in Edward A. White elementary school when I heard that President Kennedy had been shot. And sitting on the green couch in my living room in Atlanta when I watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.

On September 11, 2001 I was in the four person cube that was the front desk for UPS Public Relations department. One of my cube mates came in and said that the world trade center had been bombed. I answered, "Like that hasn't happened before." Just as those words came out of my mouth my phone rang. The district communications manager for New York was almost hysterical on the other end of the line askning to speak with the VP and media manager of PR. As I was talking to her all 16 phone lines that came into the front desk lit up, and didn't go silent for 5 or 6 months later. There was one TV in the PR department and a TV in the elevator bay of every floor, and another one in the gym. The employees huddled around them all day watching the carnage. That evening as I was going home two teenaged boys were standing beside a bridge holding up a large American flag. Not long after that the county erected a flag pole in that place and every year a wreath is placed beside the pole.

Maria Rose said...

Eric and I were newlyweds. We had recently moved to Missoula, MT. On the morning of September 11th we were preparing for a trip to visit my grandmother and step grandfather. We got ready and left our house without turning on the tv or computer. When we stopped for gas I noticed a group if people talking. Initially I assumed they were talking about a movie. I heard words like bombs, planes, pentagon, White House. Something about their intensity left me unsettled.

When I got into the car we turned on the radio, just in case. Then we heard it. There were planes unaccounted for. Crashes were happening. We listened for the entire two hour drive.

When we arrived at my grandmotther's house we all watched TV and later went out to dinner. Watching those images, seeing the planes, the dust covered faces of aurvivors... I couldn't believe it. The restaurant had TVs pulled out. We all ate in silence.