Friday, September 11, 2009
Today is 9/11. It marks the anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Wash. DC. There have been 9/11's when I have chosen not to give it much thought. Because it was really bad. And really shocking.
Back in 2001 I only had 3 kids. Gabe was almost 5, Seth was 3 1/2, and Elise was just under 2. Gabe was gone to preschool and Seth & Elise were home with me. John had just installed a TV in our bedroom at the gravel pit house, so when he called me mid-morning, I went in there and turned it on to see what he was talking about. He told me that I needed to turn on the TV because there was something going on. I remember his voice was quiet and he sounded stressed out or something.
I turned on the TV and every channel showed the first tower on fire. They were saying a plane had crashed into it. What? A plane? It was still unclear how this could have happened. A freak accident? I felt confused. And sad. There were people jumping from the tower. The newscasters struggled to narrate the scene and they all seemed confused too. I unmade my bed and got in the covers.
I couldn't stop watching. I wanted to understand. What were the odds of a plane accidentally hitting the World Trade Center? Crazy. Then crazy turned to chilling. I was watching the TV when from out of nowhere, another plane came into view. And hit the second tower! It was so unexpected and shocking, I couldn't really process it. What? How? Why? But there were no answers. Just confusion.
I kept watching the news waiting for the commentator to make sense of it for me. I just watched and watched as the towers burned. Then the first tower started to fall. No. No. No. There were clouds of dust everywhere and when they cut to a reporter on the ground that was running from the debris, he was almost crying as he said he didn't know what was happening and why. They cut back to the newsroom, but no one there had answers either. We all just watched it unfold together. When the second tower fell, I was past the initial shock and I began to wonder what would be next. I had just seen two iconic skyscrapers burn, then fall. I had some idea that many, many people died or lost loved ones and I found it so very sad. And so very frightening. I offered silent prayers throughout the morning for those poor people so far away.
I put Disney movies on in the other room when the kids asked me why those buildings were on fire. But I kept watching and wondering and waiting. There had been another crash in Washington-the Pentagon. And there were sketchy reports that another had crashed out in the country somewhere. They were making all of the planes land wherever they were. Where would the next one hit? It became a day of waiting for the other shoe to fall.
The mood everywhere for days was subdued and somber. I took the kids to a Dr's appt the next day and everyone had the same shell-shocked manner. I remember the Pediatrician telling me the towers had their own zip codes because they were so big. No one knew how many people were lost. We watched on the news as people held up pictures of loved ones gone missing. I felt like I was holding my breath. For days. I think everyone was.
Details began to emerge about the hi-jackers. This was planned for a long time. They were a bunch of men (sons, fathers, uncles, friends) that had chosen to become terrorists. Understanding still eluded me. It just seemed so out of the blue. Violence could now happen anywhere at anytime. But I guess that's what makes terrorists effective, they make the random chance of harm seem personal and possible.
That Sunday we had gone up to Utah to attend the baby blessing of out new niece Jacqueline. Church was abbreviated and treated like a memorial service. We had a special baby blessing for her at home.
We took pictures and enjoyed great food, but we were all still somber. My sister Kim has some very nice neighbors that are from Pakistan. They were afraid to leave the house.
This was also the same year that we had planned a big trip to Florida to go to DisneyWorld with our friends the Manns. We were going the second week in October. It had been a month, but I was still nervous to fly. Our planes weren't full. Everyone sized up the other passengers. I thought what a drag it would be to fly if your skin was the wrong color right now, but I admit that I eyed a few guys myself. Disney World was super fun, but not at all crowded. The workers told us that it had been quiet like that since 9/11. I talked to a woman at the swim-with-the-dolphins place that drove all the way from New Jersey. She refused to use the plane tickets her husband had bought them months earlier.
So slowly, slowly, we all started to exhale. Airport security got a whole lot more tedious, but over days, weeks, then months, life returned to a new 'normal.' Watching the TV in my bedroom that morning it seemed like the whole world stopped, but it didn't. The earth kept turning. The sun went down that night and came up again the next morning. I don't know why that always seems odd to me sometimes, that life keeps going on-no matter what happens.
I remember how patriotic and fiercely proud I felt to be an American. I remember how everyone flew their flags. I put a big sticker of the American flag in the back window of our Suburban-Dominos was giving them out to customers with their pizza. I felt grateful for pizza, hot dogs, apple pie, and baseball. I took faith knowing that my family won't die until God is ready for us. Joseph Fielding Smith put it this way: “No righteous man is ever taken before his time." So I tried to be good. It seemed like lots of others did too.
I talked to both of my sisters about 9/11 this morning and how it changed the way we saw the world. Kim remembers how everyone was worried about an attack at the 2002 Winter Olympics in SLC. I felt that way at Disneyworld. If someone could attack on a random day in September, could they attack the Happiest Place on Earth in October while I was there? I am so impressed with the citizens of New York that stayed, and cleaned up, and carried on. Eight years of perspective made me wonder at how worried and cautious we all were. I can see now how statistically unlikely it would be that terrorists could harm my family, even if there were more attacks. But I guess that is why it is called terrorism. Because it inspires fear.
The world continues to be a place that can be frightening and unsure. But we don't have to live in fear. We must choose NOT to live in fear. We need to remember that the Lord is always in control and nothing happens that is a surprise to Him. WE read in the Book of Mormon:
2 Nephi 9:20 O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.
This doesn't mean bad things aren't going to happen, but if we have faith, the Lord will see us through anything the world can throw at us. The New Testament says:
Rom. 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God
This weekend we are going to AZ for my same niece Jacqueline, only this time it is for her baptism. Even though 8 years ago, it felt like the world would screech to a halt, it didn't. It kept going. And it has been really, really great. I have had two more children, moved out of the gravel pit, seen my parents go on a mission, welcomed new nieces and nephews, and have seen lots of them grow in the gospel and in life. And it's great!
We need to learn from 9/11 and let it work for our good. We need to love our country and serve one another. We also need to cherish each day we have on earth with our families. We need to hold to what is good and right. We need to stare down fear with our faith. God is good and He loves to bless us. Even in difficult times that are beyond our understanding right now, if we will keep moving forward, He will keep us in His care.