Ten years ago today - September 11, 2001 - was a sunny day just like today. Clear, blue skies as far as the eye could see. Daddy and I had been married for only five months, and that day started like most every other. He left for his job at the sawmill as the sun was rising. I rushed out the door (I always rushed in the morning) for my job in the office at King's Grant Retirement Community. I punched in at 8:30 and headed downstairs to my cubicle. I had just gotten everything situated and my computer turned on when I heard a startling report on the radio: an airplane had just crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. It was 8:46.
Wow, that was terrible news. A big building like that...well, there had to be lots of people inside, beginning their work day just as I was. It was terrible. I wandered away from desk and into the main reception area to see if my co-workers had heard. They had, and the receptionist had already turned on a little TV in the corner. We stood watching as black smoke poured out of the tower. Reporters were speculating as to whether this was a crazy accident, or whether it was something worse.
At 9:03, we were still watching the TV and saw the second plane crash into the other tower. This was no accident.
Shocked by the morning's events thus far, I had just returned to my desk when a third plane struck the Pentagon at 9:37. At 10:03, a fourth plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field after passengers bravely overtook the terrorists on board.
I called Daddy at work, called Gramma at work. I just needed to hear the voices of the people I loved. It felt like the whole word was caving in that morning. Everyone was shocked, sad, angry, scared. Several of the employees and residents had friends and family in New York and frantically attempted to get in touch with them. Some did. Others were left wondering until later that evening. As far as I know, no one there lost a loved one.
But so many people did. Nearly 3000 people lost their lives that day, quite literally out of the blue.
Employees were invited to come and pray together in the chapel that afternoon - the same chapel where Daddy and I were married.
That night, Daddy and I sat in front of the TV at home, numbly watching as the news replayed the crashes over and over. It was so hard to go to sleep that night. I cried a lot, and I know I wasn't alone.
When nothing else happened over the next couple of days, it became clear that the attacks were over - but they had changed our country in a remarkable way. Flags were flying everywhere - off of buildings, in yards, from the tops of cars. Patriotism swelled - every heart filled with love for our country and its people. In their shock and grief, people came together and helped each other. Donated blood. Took up collections to help the families of the 9/11 victims. More people went to church, and I know that even more prayed. People gave their best in more ways that I can remember.
Alan Jackson - a big country singer at the time, still popular today, probably not by the time either of you are able to really understand this - wrote a song about 9/11 shortly afterward, that summed up quite well the way that we felt in the days following the attacks. Listen to the words:
There were other songs written, but none that speak my feelings as well as this one. Ten years later, I still cry every time I hear it. I know it'll be hard for you understand, since you weren't there, but I doubt you'll ever meet an adult that doesn't remember exactly where they were and what they were doing on September 11, 2001.
My sweet girls, even though you weren't there, you were on my mind that morning. As I sat at my desk, not working (no one got much work done that day), thinking about what had happened and what it meant for our country...uncertain of what this meant, what it might mean for our future...wondering what the world would be like in a few years...my mind flashed forward to the babies that I wanted, someday, and I prayed that they would not know the fear and uncertainty that we knew on that day. I wanted better for you both.
So I wrote a letter to you. Sitting at my desk in front of my computer, trying to look busy although my mind was anywhere but at work, I wrote a letter to my future children. I told you what had happened and what I felt at that exact moment. I told you the hopes I had for your someday-lives. The next day, I added to that letter a copy of the speech that President Bush delivered later on the evening in September 11th.
I saved it onto a disk and transferred it to my computer at home...but that was several computers and three homes ago and sadly, the letter has been lost. I so wish I could find it to share it with you (or at least, with Rachael) today. Since I can't, I thought that a new letter was in order.
I did, at least, find the President's speech. You can read or view it here.
And now you know where I was and what I was doing as well.
I hope that neither of you will ever experience a day like that one. But at the same time, I hope that someday you'll be able to imagine - and it shouldn't be hard, since there's so much video from 9/11 to be found - what it was like for us that were here. I hope that you'll feel pride in the country we live in, and in the remarkable people all around us that are willing to selflessly rush into burning buildings to save other people. I hope you'll feel compassion for the families that lost loved ones - and I hope that you'll learn great compassion in a way that's less heartbreaking. I hope you'll pray for people that need it, whether you know them or not. I hope that you never, ever have your own 9/11.
I am so grateful for you both. I wondered that morning, whether our world was changing in such a hideous way that Daddy and I would never want to subject a child of our own to it. But our country is strong, and while we will never forget that day, it did not break us. There are terrible people in the world, girls...but there are so many good ones too. Be two of the good ones. Always hope, always pray, and always do good.
I love you both, so much.