Sunday, September 11, 2011


Everyone remembers where they were that day.

I remember I was at home, watching the news while getting ready for class.  Then a special report came on.  At first, of course, no one knew the magnitude of the events that would follow the initial breaking story: that one of the World Trade Center towers was on fire.  As I watched the burning building on TV, the plane hit the second tower and I will never forget the newscaster gasping in horror right along with so many of us watching at home.  Then the news of the Pentagon...then the truly heroic sacrifices of those who crashed in the field in Pennsylvania.

What I also remember is the uncertainty of the rest of the day.  I called KU Law--class was still on.  I drove to Lawrence from our house in Tonganoxie and the road was oddly deserted, until, at least, I got into Lawrence.  As I drove into town I noticed every gas station on the main road had lines that overflowed onto the road and down it for several blocks.  The signs on the gas station said $5 and $6 per gallon.  I looked down at my gas gauge--thankfully well over half a tank.  I didn't think (in other words, I hoped) that I wouldn't have to line up for gas.  Surely we couldn't be facing something that would prevent us from getting fuel, would we?  And even if we did, how would our survival be assured by getting that last tank of gas?

Before going to class I went by the bank where my then-fiance (and now ex-husband) was working.  We sat in the car and talked.  What did all this mean for our country?  For ourselves?  He agreed--there was no reason to line up for gas.  Either we didn't need it, or if we did, that last bit wasn't going to make any significant impact on what would happen to us in that kind of world.

I went to class, but it was difficult to concentrate.  The events were mentioned briefly and then it was on to business.  In between classes I went to the library to check the news--what else was going on?  We didn't know if the attacks would continue.  We never could have imagined anything like this happening in our country, so what else unimaginable would take place?  I hope that this feeling is the closest I ever come to knowing what it must have been like for my grandparents, when my grandpa was stationed in California, waiting for the Japanese to invade.  They were waiting, prepared to fight the Japanese to try to prevent them from advancing any further than the Rocky Mountains.  Readying for that fight (which thankfully never happened) must have been like waiting for the next attacks following 9/11.  Waiting, fearing the worst, wondering how many more would die, and not knowing if or when it would happen.....

I believe, for our generation, that this moment brought us out of the safety that we had known for so long (thanks to the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation) and into the harshness of reality.  None of us want to recognize that terrible things can happen, especially to us.  Today we remember these events and honor those who died innocently and heroically during this tragedy.

The hero is commonly the simplest and obscurest of men.
Henry David Thoreau


Gail H. Ragsdale said...

Always in our hearts, always in our memories~

smazourek said...

I was in DC for grad school at George Washington U. I had just walked into my anthropology seminar when one of the other students ran in the room and turned on the TV. We all sat there stunned. We were still sitting there watching the news when we heard the other plane hit the Pentagon (GW campus is only a few miles from there). The smoke billowed off of it for days.

Alan T Hainkel said...

I found out with a phone call.

I was sitting on the couch in my apartment in Kalamazoo, MI, reading my mail. I hadn't had the TV on and I hadn't been listening to the radio, either.

My mother called to say she was home from work. I said, "Okay...," as if to ask why she felt the need to make a long-distance phone call to tell me that. She was working for the federal government at the time and they sent everybody home, since nobody knew who, or what, would be next.

She told me what had happened to the towers and that the FAA had ordered all planes grounded immediately. That explained why it had been quieter than normal. My apartment was about a mile from the airport and I would hear jets all the time.

It hardly seems like it's been 10 years. I know I'll never forget that day.