For me as a homeschooler, it started out like any other day. I went with my dad to take my mom to ZBTHS for work. We got home, ate breakfast, and I got to work on Math, Science, and Reading. At age 11, I always rushed to beat my dad to the phone whenever it rang. This time, it was my Grandma Clark. When I answered, all I remember her saying was "I need you father." My grandma never reffered to ANYBODY as father, it was always "your daddy"; and the tone in her voice convinced me something was wrong. At first I thought someone had died. like my Great-Grandpa who had been sick all summer. I yelled for my dad, who was at the computer. I told him it was grandma and sat back down to continue my studies, keeping an ear out. My dad suddenly yelled "What???" When I looked up, he told me to get in the basement fast. I didn't hear tornado sirens or anything, but I knew that face. I grabbed my schoolbooks and bolted downstairs. I dropped my books on the table, then stood at the bottom of the stairs. I heard the phone slam down, and I yelled for my dad. He told me to keep working on my studies and he would be down in a minute. By now I was scared and didn't want to be alone, but I did as he said. I'm not exactly sure what he was doing; I think he was trying to call my mom at school. A few minutes later, he came downstairs and turned on WMBI, a radio station based at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I didn't understand what was going on, so I asked my dad. He said something about something happening to a building in New York. I had never heard of the World Trade Center before, but could tell something bad was happening. We spent most of the day downstairs, leaving only to get my mom from school. The rest of the day blurred together for me, and I don't remember much; if CYT had already started, Tuesdays were when we had classes, but I don't remember going that day. Either it was cancelled, or my dad just didn't want me gone because of the days events, or both. Maybe I did go, and just don't remember. I was 11, and couldn't imagine anything that terrible happening. I had just finished learning about Pearl Harbor, and I knew nothing like that would never happen in my lifetime. I went to bed that night totally oblivious, not realizing how naive I was being...not realizing that I was about to grow up....
My dad was supposed to have an appointment with his specialist in Milwaukee on Wednesday. He had called to confirm that it was still on, and it was. I had recently been allowed to stay at home by myself, but today my dad called Grandma Clark if I could come over so I wouldn't be alone. He made my list of schoolwork. and I was dropped off while my mom accompanied him to his appointment. I sat on the couch in the breezeway, knowing if I got my work done fast Grandma and I could do fun things later. Grandma turned on the morning news like she always did, as I was (ironically) beginning my History homework.
I didn't get my schoolwork done that day.
I spent the next 9 hours watching the ongoing news coverage of the events from the day before, pausing long enough only to eat or go to the bathroom. I can imagine myself staring at the TV wide-eyed, my face a mask of shock and disbelief. I had never seen anything like this before in my life, not in any movies or anything; and this was NOT a movie I was watching. With each replay of the planes' impact, with every survivor interviewed about their missing loved ones, every replay of the Towers falling to their demises, I felt myself instantly aging. I suddenly realized that life wasn't a bed of roses. I realized that not all people are pure in heart. I realized that bad things, terrible things can happen to good people. I realized that even the youngest of people could be instantly killed off in a single act of cruelty.
I realized, that Life...is so much more than my childish mind could Imagine...
My parents returned from the doctor, and I blankly got in the car and returned home with them. I don't remember much after that, almost like I had been turned into an empty shell. All I could remember was the face of a young woman who was frantically searching for her fiance. She tried to talk to an on-sight newscaster, showing pictures and giving all known information in hopes of finding her beloved, but she broke down in sobs and could not finish her plea for help. I do remember sharing this story with my father, trying to cling to what innocence I had left. "Let me know, dad. Watch the news, I wanna see how happy she is when they find him. They're gonna find him, dad. All those people missing, they're gonna find them..." I remember saying something along those lines. But even as I tried to cling to the hope that the happy ending was on its way, embedded in my mind were the images of people caught on video trying to escape the flames by jumping out of the WTC...to their deaths. I remember scrambling to make sense of it all, insisting that everyone would be found safe and the bad guys would pay and the world would be a happy place again. I clung to the hope of my fairy tale ending, even as I knew inside that this would not happen, and that the worst was yet to come. I was stuck between the girl I was on Monday - carefree and innocent - and an older, wiser girl who hated humanity and what we were capable of. An inner battle was raging inside me, and I wanted it to end.
But the war was just beginning.
Headlines were glaring; President Bush had officially declared that we were at War. Servicemen were being called to action and sent to Afghanistan, while recruiters began their biggest enlistment campaigns since the end of the World Wars. Everyone I knew had a family member being sent overseas, and I became afraid. I asked my dad if he was going to go away to, and he assured me that he wasn't. I began to slip back into an innocent, oblivious childhood, believing that the worst was over and I didn't have to worry about things like that anymore.
But then my illusion was broken.
A few years had passed, and I had pretty much forgotten about 9/11 and the war. I was never able to completely return to the person I was before that day, but I was pretty close to it. I had no cares in the world, except starting Junior High, looking cool, and getting good roles in CYT productions. One day, my oldest (and favorite) cousin, Jake, called my dad and asked to come talk to us. He asked that we all be there, for it was serious. When he got to our house, we all sat down in the living room to hear what he had to say. He gave a full explanation of how he wanted to help, and felt led to join the Armed Forces in some way to help out with things and how he argued with God that he would do anything except to join the Marines. After giving us this full explanation, he informed us that he had finally come to a decision, one he felt God had wanted him to do all along, and his plans were already in motion. He was joining the Marines, and would be leaving for Boot Camp within a few months. The war finally hit home for me, and I became depressed as it all came rushing back. I was supposed to have rehearsal for Bell Choir that night, and didn't want to go. My dad insisted that I go, seeing how upset I was. Sure enough, when I walked into Bells that night, Andrea, Betty Jo, and the others instantly saw I was upset and asked what was wrong. I told them about Jake, and they held off on rehearsal for a few minutes to pray for my cousin to be safe, and for me to be at peace.
Jake was to be sent to Iraq. That christmas, my Uncle Bill took a picture of all the grandkids, as we were together for the last time before Jake left and didn't know when he would be with us at christmas again.
Time passed. It had been nearly five years since the War began. Jake had been with the Marines for a while now, and I was proud to brag about my awesome cousin. By now, I had met my birth family, and now had a brother in the National Guard to brag about as well. I was attending Christian Life High School, and took History from Mrs. Sunday. One day, when we had a free work hour, Mrs. Sunday was reading things online when she instructed one of the guys in class to turn on the TV. She said that while in History class, we were going to witness history. We found a news station, and watched the coverage of the incident in Lebanon. I remember as I watched, I saw a Marine who reminded me of Jake, and I knew that this was like what his unit would do, and I was proud of him so much. I couldn't wait to tell my dad how cool it was. When I did that afternoon, he informed me that early that morning, Jake had called his mom (my aunt) and told her to watch the news. I realized that I actually saw my cousin making History!
The hardest thing about the War, is always the loss. I felt safe even from that; I would hear stories of the dead and think nothing like that could happen to me, let alone anyone I knew.
The illusion is once again broken.
It was the spring of my Junior Year. My best friend was preparing to graduate with the class of '08, I was excited to start Senior Year, choir was preparing for our major Spring competitions, everyone was happily busy with the end of the school year. April 14th, 2008, we learned that the War had invaded the walls of our school. CPL Richard J Nelson, the son of the school's Dean, had been killed by a roadside bomb in the line of duty. Grief struck our school as we all realized how close to home the War could reach, as we watched the grief of the family. Mrs. Nelson, one of the toughest and most amazing women I know (for putting up with some of us), was thrown into the horror of outliving her son. We tried to continue with the school year as normal, returning to a normal daily routine; but we always had this fresh, new grief hanging over us.
And the War raged on. We graduated High School and went on to college. Saddam Hussein was captured and hung. I got married and had children. Then, in May 2011, the news America had waited for 10 years for arrived; Osama Bin Laden was dead. The War had finally reached a point where we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Soldiers came home. Celebrations were had. People began to pick up their lives. Time to heal our land and our hearts, from the last 10 years of living hell.
That is my story of 9/11.
What do you remember?