Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stacey's Story: Where were you on 9/11?

How many of us got a phone call to turn on our television the morning of September 11, 2001?

I imagine that's how several of us were introduced to the nightmare happening in New York City that unimaginable day.

In my case, it was my mother-in-law on the other end of the line. My husband and I weren't awake - after all, it was still pretty early on the West Coast. Our oldest child, who was in 1st grade at the time, didn't need to be up yet for school.

Confused by what my mother-in-law was trying to tell us, we turned on the television just in time to see a playback of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center. It was shocking, disorienting, and I wanted someone to catch me up quick. Of course, since every single channel was trained to the news, it didn't take long to find out what was happening.

I remember crying.

I remember shaking my head, hand held over my open mouth.

I remember worrying about my step-brother, who lived in New York at the time.

I remember wondering if I should let our daughter go to school. That seems funny to me now. What kind of danger was I in an entire coast away from the terrorist attacks? But that was exactly the question I think many of us were asking: what kind of danger were we in? What would happen next?

We did, in fact, send our daughter off on the bus, but I felt sick about it all day. I just wanted all my babies close to me. We had three younger children at home, and I know they were put off by the strangeness of the day - Mom and Dad being so still and quiet in front of the tv, which refused to play any of their cartoons. But still, we were together, and together felt more safe than not.

One of the eeriest parts of that day, and for a few days after, was the total quiet in the skies above us.  We happened to live on the flight path of our city's regional airport, and had gotten used to the frequent air traffic. But nothing flew on September 11. The silence confirmed the stand-still.

I don't remember why I had it or where I had gotten it, but that day I found an American flag decal at home and put it on the front window of our apartment, which faced a busy street. I felt compelled to do that, to say "We live here. This is our home." Because in addition to fear and confusion and sadness was also this emboldened pride I felt boiling up within me.

In talking with my mom that day, she admitted one thing to me: "I'm so glad this didn't happen tomorrow." September 12 is my birthday. My mom didn't want it marked forever by the memory of something so heinous, but in reality, that has happened somehow anyway.

But I think if September 11, 2001 taught me anything, it's that tragedy and miracle, sadness and celebration, are often intertwined in a mystery no one can solve. Because for as many tears of loss that were shed, on that day and on many since, there were also tears of triumph, of hope, and of rising when we as a country were asked to stand.

Stacey is a busy mom of 5 currently living in the Houston metro area. Read more about her life and interests at her blog, Tree, Root, and Twig.

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