Monday, September 12, 2011

Where I was on September 11, 2001. An essay.

"It's Going to be an Interesting Day...”
Second Edition*
My Small Family's Experiences on September 11, 2001

Monday, September 10, 2001

The day was a normal enough Monday spent with my 21-month-old daughter Lillian and 4 months' pregnant with our second child. The only thing different about it was that we were going to be traveling as a family the next morning to sunny San Diego, California. David, my husband, had been there on business recently and told us that we had to visit as it was so beautiful.

We were about to enjoy the second part of his “sabbatical”. Three out of a total of six weeks' vacation he was awarded on his 5-year anniversary with his company. He had taken his first 3 weeks off that past summer.

I hadn't been on a plane in a very long time. Since my last trip, I had heard about so many plane crashes and lost lives. Thoughts of these tragedies were coming into my mind in those strange moments just before you drift off to sleep. We were all packed and I really had to get a good night's sleep. We had to be up and out with our young daughter at a decent hour so we could catch our 9:30am direct flight.

I just couldn't shake the thoughts though. What if our plane crashes? We are almost a family of 4 now. There is so much more to lose. If something bad were to happen, hopefully the worst thing it would be would be a hijacking. Now, enough worrying and go to sleep.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

True-to-form, we overslept and got out of the house later than we should have. However, we would still be able to make it to Logan for our flight on America West Airlines. David had done research as he always does for our family. American Airlines Flight 11 was earlier which would have given us a longer first day on our vacation, but it was over $1000 a ticket! This was not in the budget of our growing family, so we went with an airline with a less convenient time, but much cheaper price tag.

I had asked my doctor during my first pregnancy if it was OK to drink caffeinated coffee while I was carrying. She assured me that one cup was fine. I stuck to my one cup religiously and did not indulge in anything else caffeinated for the rest of the day, each day, everyday. I checked with her again when I was carrying my second child. Again, she said it was OK,

We were very tight on time. We had just over a ½ hour drive, in a perfect world with no delays, but this was Boston. This was a major city with record traffic and we were heading right into it. It was a weekday,. It was rush hour. It was 7:30am. Our flight was in exactly 2 hours. You are supposed to check in an hour early for a flight, we were traveling with a young child, we had to park our own car, walk to the terminal with all of our luggage, check in and...we had just left our house.

I had forgotten something though. I hadn't had my coffee. I was fatigued from the pregnancy, but I had work to do, so I had to wake up and be alert! That's OK, there was a Dunkin' Donuts right on the way to the highway. My husband is always very supportive, so against his better judgment of the late hour and the risk of missing our flight, he indulged me in stopping in for a Cup o' Joe to go. “Go as fast as you can, though, OK?” he said.

I opened the door of Dunkin's and looked in. There was a really long line. Then I remembered, it was a weekday. It was rush hour. It was 7:35am. A shocking number of city workers, business professionals, moms, dads, students, the unemployed, the bored and the tired had the same idea I had! Now what? I thought. I must have my coffee. I'd never make it to Logan nor would I have had time to buy one there if I did! I told myself to just stay calm. The 2 people behind the counter were working at lightning speed. They did this everyday. They processed this volume of customers everyday. Also, people had been very considerate and were stepping aside once they had their black gold in their hands so other people could place their order as soon as possible and get on with their day.

The line was moving rather slowly, but it was moving. A man a bit younger than I was, whose hard, physical work was obvious from his construction boots, stained jeans and defined muscles turned around to speak to me. He had noticed that the queue had slowed again as did I. “It's going to be an interesting day.” he said.

This struck me as a strange thing to say in this situation. Why wouldn't he have said, “This line is crazy today!” or “What, did everyone decide to stop at this one Dunkin' Donuts this morning?”? However, I am a friendly person and he had a kind face. I didn't know why, but I felt the same way. “Yes, it will be.” I said.

Finally, I placed my order, grabbed my coffee and rushed back out to the car. I had taken a very long time, but Dave was kind to me anyway. I had really hoped we'd we make it in time. Oh no! Was it really almost 8 o'clock?! We were just going to give it our best.

We got lucky with the traffic. There was quite a bit, but somehow we made it there before 9am. We parked in Central Parking and proceeded to Terminal C. It was slow-going with an almost 2-year-old and all of our stuff, but we made it to the check-in line of America West Airlines before it was too late.

Shortly thereafter, we boarded our plane. We were one of the first since we were “traveling with children”. I had done all kinds of research on how to keep a child occupied on a flight. I took friends, books and online articles up on every kind of advice hoping and praying that these techniques would work with my daughter. See, she marched to a different drummer. She was what I call “more”, especially at that tender age! More active, more aware (In other words, there was no distracting this child to obtain a different path of behavior.) and, the most worrisome for us parents, more emotionally explosive when she was happy or unhappy! I had the familiar butterflies in my stomach signaling that “this could go south at any moment” that I had whenever we took her to restaurants, playdates, stores, etc. I did not want the entire plane to hate us by the time we were only over the plain states with several hours to go to California or even worse, before we even taxied down the runway at Logan!

I had packed juiceboxes so her ears would pop on takeoff and landing. There were lots of choices of pre-portioned Ziploc bags full of cereal, pretzels, fruit and treats if she got hungry. I even purchased some new, inexpensive toys and wrapped them up in pretty paper! That way, when I sensed boredom and a potential explosion, I could say, “Look what I have!” Gifts are different from distractions, so (maybe) they would work. Gosh, I really hoped so. Yup, I was as prepared as I could possibly get for this completely unpredictable flight (and child).

OK, so far, so good. Lilly's empty carseat (“airplane seat”) was buckled into the seat to my right, but she was standing in front of me conducting her version of a card game on my lap. Not only had I heard the “travel tip” about not having the child sit any longer than necessary for obvious reasons, I knew that our daughter would not sit any longer than about 5 minutes without getting bored. See, she also was and still is “more” inquisitive and was an early, eloquent talker. So, she needed “more” stimulation.

I felt the butterflies, but the card game was going well. I took a deep breath. OK. She's doing OK, so we're doing OK. The other passengers continued to board. David and I were seated comfortably. He had already struck up a conversation with a Japanese man sitting next to him. This gentleman and another coworker from Japan, sitting directly behind him, were also going to San Diego.

One of the things I loved first about my husband was how social he is. This was one of the many times. What a talent to connect with people that quickly! Their conversation went on. The card game went on. Our plane was still at the gate. What time was it? It was just about 9:40am. The plane was supposed to depart at 9:30am. Gee, if we knew the flight would leave late, I wouldn't have felt as bad about the long coffee line on the way in! It seems like everyone was on board now. It looked like we should be leaving soon. That's good, because I think Lilly was getting tired of this game. The butterflies were trying to warn me that an explosion was imminent.

Our seatmate's coworker folded a beautiful origami crane and slipped it between my seat and David's. It was a gift for Lilly! Say what you want about people, but they can be so kind sometimes. This was really taking a long time. Also, there are an awful lot of cell phones ringing! Then again, it was a weekday. People were conducting business. Was it rush hour still? It struck me how everyone suddenly seemed to have a cell phone and that wasn't the case a few years before. I guess people are calling people in San Diego to tell them our plane is late. I already turned my phone off thinking we were going to take off soon. When are we taking off??

My husband and the man beside him were still conducting an animated conversation. Lilly had her juicebox ready to sip when the time was right and was munching on some grapes. I had put the cards away and was realizing that I was going to need to put her in her seat soon. It was hard to hear over the men's dialogue, but I think someone on a cell phone mentioned hijacking. Surely, this was not in the United States, forgetting for a moment about my pre-sleep thoughts the previous evening. No, it must have been somewhere else. That was terrible. I hoped everyone was OK.

What? The World Trade Center? Surely, the World Trade Center in New York City was not in danger. New York City is my favorite city in the world. I was fortunate enough to have parents that also love New York and took me to see shows, ballets, concerts and the Rockettes. Every time I went to the City, I would find the World Trade Center. Even as a young child, I called it the World Trade Center and not simply “those really tall buildings”. I fell in love with skyscrapers all over the world because of the twin towers and became fascinated by them.

I would ask my dad to drive by them when we took our trips to New York. He knew exactly where they were in the City. New York was full of what seemed like thousands of skyscrapers, but nothing compared to those towers. Those were my buildings and it was not a visit to New York without a view of them. We didn't always have time to drive right up next to them, but I always had to see them. Someway. Somehow. I had even had the absolute thrill of going to the very top and observing my favorite city from their windows! The elevator ride was scary and so was the way the buildings swayed. My dad had told me that the buildings were designed that way so they could handle storms or even just the wind that occurs at that height. I distinctly remember being high above the world inside the buildings 2 times, but I very well could have been up there a third time.

Someone else had just mentioned a hijacking. The two men continued to talk. I was sure they couldn't hear what people were saying. All of a sudden, the captain spoke over the loudspeaker. “Ladies and gentlemen. We have been instructed to require passengers to deplane and return to the terminal. There will be crew members inside to assist you with connecting flights and other information.” I had more than a hunch that this had something to do with whatever those people were talking about. I guess even if something was happening in a foreign country, we still needed to go back in until it was sorted out? Would there be another announcement? No, that was it. We did what we were supposed to do and got off the plane. I told David and his new friend that we had to go back inside the terminal. They asked me why and I told them that I'd heard something about hijacking. They looked shocked, so I told them, “Oh, not here. It's somewhere else.” I did not yet know that it had indeed started right here, at Terminal C. At around the same time I was standing in line for coffee earlier, the hijackers had been in the exact same spot as I was right then. It was the United States and it was my favorite buildings. I had assumed incorrectly before, but I was still in the dark about it.

Thankfully, I've always been a calm person. I still didn't know what was going on, but we were going to find out. We were cooperating with our instructions and my family was safe. I first noticed a man with his arm around a woman who was crying. It wasn't the kind of crying you usually see at an airport when people are saying goodbye, for instance. The two Japanese men were no where in sight and we never saw them again, but Lilly was still clutching the origami crane.

I turned to a woman who had just finished a call on her cell phone and asked her what was going on. She told me the horrible news that was about to get worse as only 2 of the 4 planes had crashed thus far. The first thing we did was call our family and friends. My dad informed me that the Pentagon had now been struck too. Clearly, this was an act of terrorism. I then called my sister and naively told her that as soon as they stabilize this situation, we were going to San Diego. I just hadn't fully grasped the full magnitude of the situation. No one had.

We asked an airport employee where the closest television was and we went right to it. On our way, a man in his 30s partially dressed in a suit, holding his sport jacket over his left arm and talking on the phone with his right, sped past us and walked so quickly down the stairs in front of us that I thought he'd surely trip. “The tower's gone.” he said to the person on the other end of the phone.

Shortly, we arrived at the bar in Terminal B where we were told to go. There was a small TV set mounted on a high shelf and a large crowd had gathered to watch it. A large banner across the bottom of the screen read, “Breaking News. America Under Attack.” On the screen, a burning tower with billowing black smoke escaping from it. Sure enough, it appeared that the man in the suit that I overheard had been correct. There was only one of my favorite towers left standing. Was the other one still there behind the smoke? No, it was not.

Just after they interviewed a woman who was hysterical as she described how people were jumping from the buildings out of desperation, the South Tower collapsed right before our eyes and the those of the world's. In absolute disbelief, we collected ourselves and our innocent daughter whose 21-month-old mind only contained thoughts and memories of people being kind to each other, all of the time. How I wanted to keep it that way forever that day. People just do not commit despicable acts toward other people. What a beautiful world she was living in. What an ugly one we were living in.

We put everything back into our car and headed home. We assured our family members and friends we had left Logan Airport. We were safe. It was over. Logan is one of the 20 busiest airports in the country, but there was not a plane in sight. The beautiful, bright blue, sunny sky was empty.

When we got close to home, we picked up a takeout pizza to eat for lunch. The clerk said that the restaurant was dead. Even the customers who came in for takeout like us were in a complete daze. We were no exception.

We gave Lilly some pizza and put her down for a nap. Once we were sure our little girl would not catch a glimpse, we put on the TV while we ate our lunch. I barely even tasted it. We were glued to the media coverage of the events, but it became too overwhelming after awhile. After Lilly woke up from her nap, we decided to get out of the house. We went for a long walk. The only plane we could see was an F-15 that kept circling around. There was a man standing on a median in the middle of a busy road waving an enormous American flag back and forth as the traffic whizzed by. I watched him for awhile. The man's face seemed to express a need to stand there and wave that flag forever.

September 11, 2002

The day was a normal enough Wednesday. I was driving Lilly to her gymnastics class with her 7-month-old brother Andersen in tow. I remembered vividly what happened exactly one year ago that day. Our family was eerily close to that unspeakable tragedy, but extremely lucky. This was not the case for just under 3000 other people and the families they left behind. My minivan had an American flag on display in solidarity like so many other vehicles did. The radio station we were listening to announced that it was now 8:46am, the time that the American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center and that there would be a moment of silence. I teared up in the car as I was driving, but not enough for the kids to notice.

The next thing I know, a police officer was pulling me over. I was doing 38mph in a 25mph zone. I explained to the officer that I must have been distracted by the moving tribute on the radio. I'm not sure if it was this statement, the flag on my van or the tears in my eyes, but the officer's face softened. He told me that he would not give me a ticket, but just a warning. We attended a special 1st Anniversary mass that night at our church. We prayed for the victims, we prayed for their families and we thanked God for sparing our lives one year ago. We had not been on Flight 11 as we had originally considered.

September 11, 2011

Today was the 10th anniversary of the attacks on our country. We live in a different city now than we did in 2001. I'm proud to say that our current city held a moving ceremony to remember and honor the lives lost that day. At my son's football game, there was a moment of silence and when the National Anthem was sung before kickoff, it sounded different to me than any other time I had heard it.

I will never forget that day. We have had 3 more children since the Tuesday morning that marked a turning point in American history. All of my children have started school, one broke an arm, they all learned to swim and ride a bike, one earned a black belt and they all have played various sports and gotten pets. There have been 10 Wedding Anniversaries, 10 Halloweens, 10 Thanksgivings, 10 Christmases and 10 years of birthdays. David and I bought this house, made new friends and I lost my father.

New York is still my favorite city and the World Trade Center towers, my favorite buildings. In my mind, they'll always be beautiful, intact and full of memories from my childhood.

Ten years is a long time, especially when you look at all of the things that have occurred in our lives. However, whenever I hear anything about 9/11 or see footage, I relive that day. I am a mother pregnant with her second child, on a plane waiting to take off on our family vacation. I picture Lilly as that 21-month-old girl. I can still see that woman crying in Terminal C before I knew what was going on. I can remember the fear in the voices of my friends and family when we called to let them know that we were not on any of the doomed flights and the relief when they heard we were safe. I can see the man running down the steps and the television in the bar. I remember every single detail. It's as if no time has passed in between. It sure was “an interesting day”.

*Second Edition I wrote the First Edition of our true story on September 11, 2002. Subsequently, at the beginning of a backup process, the external hard drive on which the file was saved was dropped and destroyed. For years, I mourned the loss of my written account of that fateful day. However, as the 10th Anniversary approached, I was once again moved to write down our experiences. I simply relived the day and rewrote the essay today, 9 years after my first essay and 10 years after 9/11.

"Empire State of Mind, Part 2 (9/11 Tribute)" Performed by James Davis Jr and the Children of NYC (Warning:: Some Graphic Images of 9/11/01)

Video: Courtesy of abbyrocks100's channel, YouTube

Lyrics of "Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down" by Shawn Carter, Angela Hunte, Bert Keyes, Alicia Keys, Sylvia Robinson, J Sewell-ulepic, Al Shuckburgh

Ooohh New York x2

Grew up in a town that is famous as the place of movie scenes
Noise was always loud, there are sirens all around and the streets are mean
If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere, that's what they say
Seeing my face in lights or my name on marquees found down on Broadway

Even if it ain’t all it seems, I got a pocketful of dreams
Baby, I'm from New York
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothing you can't do
Now you're in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Hear it for New York, New York, New York!

On the avenue, there ain't never a curfew, ladies work so hard
Such a melting pot, on the corner selling rock, preachers pray to God
Hail a gypsy cab, takes me down from Harlem to the Brooklyn Bridge
Some will sleep tonight with a hunger far more than an empty fridge

I'm gonna make it by any means, I got a pocketful of dreams
Baby, I'm from New York
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothing you can't do
Now you're in New York
These street will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Hear it for New York, New York, New York!

One hand in the air for the big city,
Street lights, big dreams all looking pretty
No place in the world that can compare
Put your lighters in the air, everybody say yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

In New York
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothing you can't do
Now you're in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Now you're in New York!

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothing you can't do
Now you're in New York
These street will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Hear it for New York!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Welcome New Followers!

Thank you to Mona, Endy and LV for being my newest followers!  I appreciate everyone's attention even as I struggle to get "back on the blogwagon".  It's some great summer stories to share.  Things may get physically easier when your kids get older, but you definitely get (even) busier!!

What's everyone doing for the summer?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Happy July 4th!

Hello everyone!  Checking in to let you know I'm ramping up my blog again!  In the meantime, I had a FANTASTIC FOURTH!  I hope you did too.  I'm baaa-aaaack!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Planet Fitness

What Planet are you on?

I love pugs!

I love pugs!
These little dogs are so friendly and playful! Perfect if you're low on space.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

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