Monday, September 11, 2006
A year after the events of September 11th, our local newpaper asked it's readers to write a memory of that day and how they had changed.
August 21, 2002
It has taken me almost a year to record my thoughts about the happenings of September 11, 2001. I think maybe it has taken me that long to figure out what I would write in keeping a record of that day. Although I clearly remember the chain of events, my feelings are not as raw.
Matt took the girls to my sisters for the morning, and I didn’t have to be to work as an instructor at the dental college until about 9:30, so I relaxed and went downstairs to check my email. I had the TV on to “Good Morning America”, just for the background noise I seem to always need. They broke into the news with a picture of the World Trade Center Tower 1 on fire, and I began to get nervous. My brother has his office in that building in NYC. He and my father have an investment business together, with an office here in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the international office there in NYC. I was watching as the second plane hit the second tower, in total unbelief. I remember thinking to myself, “What is going on??” I remember vividly Charlie Gibson’s voice saying something like, “Now wait a minute, that was a plane deliberately flying into the towers, that was NOT an accident.” They did not know what had caused the first gaping hole in Tower 1, but now we knew it was a plane.
My father had been on a business trip to NYC and Washington D.C., and he said “I’ll be home Tuesday or Wednesday.” My mind immediately began to prepare for the worst, my brother is in that building, and Dad is on a plane. I ran upstairs frantically looking through my address box to find my brothers phone numbers there in New York. I couldn’t find them, so I ran back downstairs back to my email to search for one from him with his information on the bottom of it. I found it and called the cell phone but just got busy signals. I called my sister here in town and asked my brother in law if he knew what floor the office was on, he wasn’t sure but he thought his floor wasn’t that high up (in fact, their office was on the 78th floor and I’ve read that the first plane hit about only 10 floors above that). He handed the phone to my sister and I just said “Heidi!”, and she said “I know, I’m calling him right now.” She would let me know. Those next 2-3 minutes were the absolute worst. I really just sat and cried and just was astonished at what I was seeing. I called my sister again, and she said “He’s fine, I woke him up at his apartment.” Todd had not heard the news, I think she tried to explain what happened, but she just said “Turn your TV on.” Then there was just silence on his end, maybe he dropped the phone. When I asked about Dad, she said that Todd said “He flew home on a plane late last night, he’s home.” My sister called and woke him up too. So in about 1 minute I went from thinking I had just lost my only brother, and my father, to our family being ok.
Todd had worked late the night before at the office and was home sleeping. My mom later sent an email out saying how glad she was that Todd had received her night owl genes. I always remember him being up late and sleeping in. My father had changed his business plans and was in New York City that weekend before. He and my brother had dinner Friday night and ate outside in the plaza of the Twin Towers. My father remembers marveling at the Towers and the beauty and magnitude of them. Who would have ever thought that they would fall at the hands of human beings as terrorists?? My father then headed to Washington D.C. for a few meetings and ended up on a late plane home to Nebraska on September 10th. The other members of my brothers office were not in the building either. The man who usually arrived first at the office was at home dealing with some insurance companies since his wife had been in a fender bender the evening before. One of their interns had forgotten her security pass and had to wait until 9am to get a clearance pass to go up. They were not able to contact their other interns until later that day but they were found safe as well.
As I drove to work that morning I just felt sick inside. Knowing that something like this could and did happen. I did not yet know the full effect of the days events. At the dental college they had a small TV at the reception desk that many of us gathered around. I remember heading back to it in between checking patients for my students. When I came out and saw that the towers had fallen, the feeling I had inside began to worsen. How many people had just lost their lives, their loved ones lives changed forever. I did then, and still go from feeling very angry, to very happy that my brother and father were ok, to being very afraid for the future, to feeling so sad for the families that lost so much.
As a went to my sisters to see my children (two girls, 2 ½ , and 6months), I wondered what we would tell them. I was so glad that they were pretty oblivious to what was going on. I remember thinking I was so glad that they were small enough that I wouldn’t have to try to explain it, yet. I’m still not sure what to say to them. How do I tell them that they will be safe and that people are good and kind and that mommy and daddy will always be there? I was there when my nephew (6 years old), came home from school, with a note. They explained that they had briefly told the children that something bad had happened and that many people were hurt, but they tried as much as they could to keep the day as normal as possible. To each note they had attached a small American flag. As our family gathered all together that night, my dad arrived and handed each of us one of their business cards with the World Trade Center address in the lower corner. I still carry it in my billfold as a reminder. The shock was wearing off a little and it all was feeling very real. I received a copy of the email my brother sent to all of his clients that read “I am sorry to report that our Schwendiman Partners LLC office in NewYork has been destroyed in the World Trade Center Terrorist attack this morning. . . Please pray for all others that are affected by the tragedy that has befallen our country.” That made it far too close to home. Our whole family was very emotional. My father kept thinking, what if he had been there? He probably would’ve been getting Todd out of bed to get to the office. My sister who was in Boston, wrote an email of what her feelings were and wanted to make it an open forum for anyone who needed to share what they were feeling. Our thoughts all turned to the families that were aching.
I still tear up today thinking of the social workers that were meeting kids at schools and bus stops to say their parent(s) weren’t coming home. I think of the pregnant wives with so much life inside them, knowing their child would only hear stories of their dad instead of having stories read to them by their dad. And the fathers that now would need to be mothers too. I ache for the families of all of the service workers that ran to those buildings in an effort to serve. I think of parents who would have the awful task of laying their own children to rest. I put out our flag that night, and it still flies today.
I remember on that Friday, the national day of remembrance, driving to our church. I was brought to tears as I drove through our neighborhood and almost every single home had their flag flying proudly. Several streets were lined with small flags along the road. People changed. Small things didn’t matter. Smiles mattered, friendliness and kindness mattered. Love mattered. Love for our country and each other mattered. I hope we never forget our feelings that followed the events of September 11. I hope they stay in our hearts so we can teach our children. We can teach our children to love and listen and to fight and stand up for what’s right when you need to. My daughter, now 3 ½ , still points out each American Flag she sees. She often says,
“‘Cuz, we love America, right mom?”
“That’s right, sweetie.”