Today marks the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy in New York City. The hijacking of four airplanes with the innocent passengers ranging from newborns to the elderly, would take their last trip as they plunged into buildings or the quiet landscape of small community.
We all know the stories, the acts of heroism, the nameless faces of those who screamed in terror as they witnessed the unfathomable essence of pure evil.
Right before the news broke of the first airplane crashing into the World Trade Center, I had just stepped out of the career lab of South High School in Wichita, Kansas. My freshmen were working with counselors and creating a career folder. Basically, "What do I want to be when I grow up" type of lesson. Passing by one of the administrator's offices, I noticed that one of our security guards and a couple of staff members were huddled around the television like a campfire scene. Pausing mid-step, I inquired, "What are you doing?" They all glanced up and one stated, "An airplane has hit one of the World Trade Centers." I shook my head sadly, not at that moment, realizing the impact of his statement. "Oh how horrible, " I replied. The idea of an accident was the only conclusion my mind could concoct.
Proceeding into the opposite office, I cleaned out my mailbox, spoke with a few of the office staff about student issues and retraced my steps toward my freshmen class. When I heard, "What the hell is going on!" I stepped back into the previous office. The huddled group of colleagues quickly dispersed and the security guard shook his head as he walked past. "We're at war."
What? What! "Wait a minute! What's happening?" I asked, as I grabbed his shirt sleeve.
"Another airplane has hit the other World Trade Center. I just watched it live on television." He walked away in search of our head principal.
I could feel my stomach began to churn and the implications of his statement. A sudden sense of fright enveloped me and the first thing I thought of were my two girls, ages 1 and 5 at the time, and then my husband...my military husband. I ran to the television, saw a few pictures of the burning buildings and returned to the counselor's office.
I've been told my face is full of expression and that day, more so than ever. The counselor could read what was written on my face. She knew something horrible had occurred but no clue just how much so. As my students, my precious, young, innocent students continued to work, I whispered to the counselor what was happening. I informed her that I needed to contact my husband.
I went into an office, dialed his number, and when he answered "unsecured line" my heart raced even faster. "Michael? What is happening?"
"Not sure yet. Don't expect me home for awhile," and within seconds, he hung up.
What just seemed like seconds, the news broke that the Pentagon had been hit.
It was war.
I cannot remember which paraprofessional it was, but she saw me shaking and she must have sensed my turmoil. I felt cool hands grasp mine and she pulled me into a office with the school's registrar. She began praying and I bowed my head and listened as she asked for God to heal us in this time of need, to send a calm over our spirits and protect our brothers and sisters of our nation.
I wiped my tears, hugged her and went back into the counselor's career center and resumed my duties as a teacher.
I've always thought I was a strong, independent woman. However, for three solid weeks, I would go through the motions of chores, cooking, taking care of household duties but I can actually say that I was in a state of depression. I cried myself to sleep every night, worried for my husband and fearing for my children. Watching the clips of the airplanes slamming into the building, bodies falling and the collapse of the towers continued to invade my soul. The television was becoming a nightmare and I made the decision to turn it off for some time. It was a saving balm.
My brother in law was sent to Iraq and served two tours. We are so thankful that he returned home safely to his wife and three children. He is now officially retired from the Marine Corps and was welcomed home by the American Legion.
My military husband wrote his name on the volunteer list, if he was needed. I was terrified by that prospect but it's who he is: a proud American who loves his country. He was never called to fight over in the Middle East, but he is still with the military and close to retiring.
The fact that ten years have passed seems unreal. I can still vividly recall the feelings of terror, the patriotism and the pictures plastered throughout my memory. My spirit was deflated for quite some time, but as I listen to survivors speak of courage, hope and moving forward, I feel that I must do the same.
I may have not been physically there when it happened. I did not lose a family member, but as an American, I lost brothers and sisters and I bled with our country. We may have some problems in our nation with our politicians, the economy and other issues, but I would never consider living anywhere else.
Just as singer Lee Greenwood stated: "I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free. And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me, so I proudly stand up, next to you and defend you still today. 'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land...GOD BLESS THE USA."