Posted by: Lea | September 11, 2011

Reflections of 9/11- Ten Years Later

Jack's 9/11 Drawing

My five-year old son came home from kindergarten on Friday (Patriot Day) and immediately sat down and started drawing a picture. When he finally showed it to us, we saw what it was he learned about at school that day- September 11th. His heartbreaking picture was of the two buildings with the planes flying into them, smoke and flames coming out of the windows, and firefighters on the ground. It made me think about that day ten years ago. Ten years ago sounds so far away, but yet it still feels like it was yesterday.

I was 25 years old, and we were living in Cleveland, Ohio. I was a Sales Manager with For Rent Magazine. It was a deadline day, meaning we had to get our magazine ready and out for publication that day. I was in a closed-door meeting when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. My Graphic Designer, Chris, had the radio on in her office, and she heard about the plane hitting. She immediately ran to the TV in our conference room and turned on the television. She came to get me, knowing that I would be interested in hearing about what we thought was an accident at the time since my husband was a pilot. We were all gathered around the TV and watched in shock as the second plane hit. We couldn’t believe it. Chris ran through the office yelling “we’re being attacked”. No one knew what to think. At first, there were reports that they were small private planes that hit. Then the news came that it was a commercial airliner- maybe a United 737, which is the plane my husband flew for United Airlines at that time.

My cell phone and office phone immediately started ringing as worried family members called me wanting to know if I knew where Ryan, my husband was. Luckily, I knew he was safe on an overnight in Sacramento and was sleeping when the attacks happened. I called to wake him up to tell him what was going on. We all watched the news reports in horror watching people emerge from the towers, watching those who were trapped feeling there was no other choice but to jump to their deaths. One of my Account Executives, who wasn’t in the office, called us to tell us the Pentagon was hit by a plane. We told him he was wrong. It was the Twin Towers. He said he just heard it on the radio. Just as he said this, the news broke that the Pentagon was hit. We sat speechless. No one knew what to say or do. What could we do?

Then chaos broke loose as word came in about the hijacked flight (Flight 93) turning over Cleveland. We were terrified that something was going to happen in our town. At the same time, they had a Delta flight sequestered at our airport. There were reports that there was a bomb on the plane. Traffic around the airport came to a standstill. People actually got out and left their cars on the highway. There was no other way for them to get home. During this time, the first tower fell. I can’t even describe the horror of watching this happen, knowing there were so many people in that tower that would never get to go home. Hearing of Flight 93 crashing into the ground and seeing the second tower fall just cemented that our lives were never going to be the same again.

I’ll always remember driving home from work that night. We had to stay and get the magazine finished- no going home early for us. I left the office around 7:30 that night. I drove home on 480 in Cleveland. It was a ver eerie feeling. There weren’t many others on the road, but one sight will always burn in my mind- standing on an overpass over the highway was a lone man waving an American flag. As I got closer to home, I noticed that all of the stores and restaurants were closed, all with hand-written signs on the door that said they were shutting down due the attacks on the United States.

I was scared that night. No other way to say it. My husband worked for one of the airlines that was hijacked. I realized how easily it could have been him. I had nightmares that night of Osama bin Laden coming up the stairs from my basement. I slept horribly and spent most of the night in tears. Ryan was stuck in Sacramento since no one was allowed to fly. He finally made it home Friday on a flight run out of San Francisco for all misplaced United Airlines employees. The day he came home, I ran to him knowing how lucky we were.

The next days were very surreal. Life had changed. Innocence was gone. I remember doing everything I could to do my part to help- whether it be donating dog food for the rescue dogs, water for the first responders or just simply wearing a red, white and blue ribbon. Ten days after 9/11, we found out I was pregnant with our first child. Watching all of the specials this week about the children of 9/11 really makes me relate. My daughter is the exact same age as these children. It breaks my heart to think that there was a chance she never would have gotten to meet her father, but it also makes me realize how very lucky we are.

I watched as much news as I could on the attacks for the next several days. I bought magazines and newspapers to keep for my children to read some day. I wanted to make sure they my children always knew what happened on this day. I remember taking my first flight after the attacks in November 2011. I was scared. No other way to say it. I still look around when I get on a flight, even 10 years later.

The anniversary of 9/11 brings on so many feelings: sadness, shock, depression. But it also brings hope. The country pulled together in a way I had never seen before. The country will never be the same, in both good ways and bad. My family and I have spent many hours this weekend watching coverage of September 11th. I was worried at first that it may be too much for them, but I am convinced that they need to know how very important this day is.

After 9/11, my husband was furloughed from United Airlines, his dream job. In fact, his letter stating he was off his first year probation was dated September 11.  Ten years later, he is still not back with the airlines. We were impacted directly by these attacks, but I know that we are still one of the lucky families. Everyone came home.

My heart goes out to the families of the victims of 9/11. Heroism truly showed its face that day, and it overpowered the evil shown by the terrorists.

Everyone go hug your families today. And every day.

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