Stuck in traffic on the New Jersey turnpike, watching the first seemingly tiny plane hit with my own eyes, I might have rolled them thinking, what kind of idiot would hit a huge building? I was late for work, and everyone was just staring at this small stream of smoke rising form the building. But then not long after, watching that second plane, (a news plane maybe? my mind wondered, coming to assess the damage of the first?) circle around and hit the other building, again with my own eyes, my body still covers with goosebumps when I think of the simplistic, almost childish thought went through my head, "that, was on purpose". Instantly I felt so very afraid and alone, as the turnpike turned to a parking lot and people started getting out of their cars in disbelief, looking across the river and sharing the horror with strangers. When I got to work, 45 minutes later, I felt so afraid for my co-workers who had husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and kids in the city. The internet and the phones were down, rumors were circling that no one could get in or out of the City or the other Burroughs, where many lived. We stood together shoulder to shoulder and looked out of the window from our 5th floor office window watching in silence, but we needed to see, so we moved out to the parking structure and watched in disbelief as the towers came down. We stood there, hugging and crying, and not knowing the the hell this meant, just that it was something awful, we couldn't comprehend. I left work alone and stopped at the store after about an hour of commuting, where the bottled water was already sold out. I was numb in the aisle wondering where I would get clean water, imagining the worst. Police escorts took us off of the turnpike and onto some back roads that I was unfamiliar with. Someone in another store store said planes were hitting all over the east coast, and one had just hit the white house. I took the last three cases of water at that store. I tried to call my mom and Lawrence but all circuits were busy.
Never in my life did I wish more that everyone I loved was in Joseph, Oregon than at that moment. I didn't know what was going on, but I knew I didn't want to be where I was. I didn't want to be close enough to see things happen with my own eyes.
The morning of September 11th, 2011 - 10 years later - at 9am I was going for a run. It was the first day of my new phase with my fitness accountability group. I ran 2.5 miles and went to the grocery store, shopped, and called Lawrence and the kids to pick me up. I thought and reflected the whole time. I thought about what else I could have said, should of said to answer the interview questions. How could I have described, how did that day change me, in ways that were the same and in ways that were different than anyone else in this world? In so many ways it changed everyone...who was I to be answering a question about how it changed me?
I thanked, and continue to thank, God for another day to love the ones I love.
At the one year anniversary, I was living in Portland, a newlywed. It was then that I found out this affected everyone in the country so profusely. Being in NYC many times in the months following the 9/11 attacks...I naively thought it was something that happened to the city, it happened more to the people downtown that it did to those in midtown, it happened more the people in midtown than it did to those in New Jersey, and I foolishly thought, it happened more to those in New Jersey than it did to people in Oregon. Because my own experience felt so big at that time, I missed the bigger picture. But when I got home. When I was here. That's when I found out that it happened to everybody. And on days like today, we remember the victims, those who gave and give their lives for bravery and to save others, those who died in this and all senseless attacks, those who lost people that mattered more to them that life itself.
We also remember that the attack happened to each of us as well. In some personal and profound way, we all were changed, we all remember, we all have a story. And a loss. We are brought back to the moment that we realized that this was bad, that we might not be safe. The uncertainty. The goosebumps. We can all remember what that moment was for us. Who was sitting next to us. Our exact line of thinking.