My mother loved flowers. Every year, on her birthday, I place a homegrown bouquet her grave. This time, however, I do not make it to the cemetery on her birthday. It is September 11, 2001.
At about 7:45 a.m., DH rushes into the bedroom and turns on the T.V. He is saying something about a bombing in New York. I sit up in bed; still groggy from insomnia and three Excedrin P.M.’s and wonder what is so special about this bombing. It becomes clear as broadcasters are trying to make sense of what is still happening. I quickly sober up as the images become focused. My mind begins processing the horrific scenes. What I am seeing is surreal, like watching a movie being played out on the television. One of the World Trade Center towers is burning.
Some people are running from the area. Others stand and watch the building burn. Still others rush to help. Suddenly a plane hits the second tower. I sit transfixed, unable to take my eyes off the screen. I am beginning to comprehend the enormity and horror of what is happening. The news breaks about other possible hijackings.
This is not an accident. It is murder. It is suicide. Someone, somewhere, is making a statement in the most terrifying way possible.
Three thousand miles away from New York, DH and I lay on our king-sized bed. We watch as brilliant red and yellow flames engulf the skyscrapers. Huge gray dust clouds descend from the sky and roll through the streets. We see people leap to their deaths amid millions of bits of twirling paper. Our 40-inch marvel of technology has brought the nightmare into our comfortable home. We watch quietly and hold hands, knowing we are powerless to do anything to help. I sit silently, understanding that things I value one moment can mean absolutely nothing in the next.
DH had taken the Kiddo to school. I ask if she has heard what happened. She has, and I worry she might be afraid. I’m not fearful that something will happen to us. I feel we’re safe. Orange County, California doesn’t seem like much of a terrorist target compared to other places. I decide to let her have as normal a day as she can. I know it will change soon enough.
In my mind, I hear the snippet of Roosevelt’s declaration of Pearl Harbor being a “day which shall live in infamy.” This feels like one of those days to me. America is my home, and war doesn’t happen on our shores. A naive thought. Of course, it happens on our shores. Terrible things happen in the United States every day. CNN is announcing that foreign terrorists, not an American group, staged the attacks. Somehow, I feel better. It is easier for me to comprehend a murky unnamed enemy on foreign soil committing these acts, then an American doing this to his countrymen.
As the day wears on, more information becomes available. Four planes have been hijacked. Two were flown into the Twin Towers, one into the Pentagon and one crashed into a Pennsylvania field. Little by little the puzzle is being pieced together. President Bush addresses the nation. He speaks forcefully to our country’s threats. I am comforted to know that we will not back down. I want to fly our flag, to let the world know we are proud to be Americans and will overcome whatever threat there is to our country.
September 11th will forever be known simply as “9/11”. Next year on September 11, everyone will remember the tragedies and the precious freedom the terrorists tried to steal from us. I too, will remember those events, but first I’ll make sure I tell my family how much I love them and place an extra large bouquet of flowers on my mother’s grave.