Yesterday, September 11, I watched one of the news specials covering the ceremony at Ground Zero in New York City; at Shanksville, Pennsylvania; and at the Pentagon. I, as I imagine most everyone did yesterday, recalled where I was when I first heard of the attacks. I also thought about the rest of that day and the days after.
My family was already scattered on Tuesday morning when the attacks started. My husband was somewhere over South Texas in a small airplane flying game surveys, my daughter was at school in Three Rivers, and my son and I were in the car on our way to Kingsville, 83 miles away, where I worked and he attended a preschool program. I had been rushing all morning, trying to get two children and myself out of the door on time. My first knowledge that something was wrong came at just before eight o’clock when I turned on the radio.
Listening to it on the radio, it seemed like it must be a dramatization of some kind, like the "War of the Worlds" incident in the thirties. I called someone who was at home watching television and they confirmed it was real. As reports came in of more explosions, more planes crashing into buildings, air traffic being grounded, missing planes in the skies—I felt a rising sense of panic. Where would the next attack be? Was it going to be nation-wide? It was so much all at once, I could not think clearly about what I needed to do. Should I go on to Kingsville, or should I go back to Three Rivers, pick up my daughter, and go home? And where was my husband? He was not answering his telephone yet all airplanes had been grounded.
All I wanted to do from that moment on was to gather my husband and children and be at home with them. I did go on to Kingsville, and I found everyone there was thinking the same thing. Everyone was calling those they loved the most to see if they were safe. Everyone was working on getting home and to his or her family. And everyone was praying. Many times during the day, one of my students would ask us all to hold hands and pray together. Any thoughts about separation of church and state were out the window that day.
My husband finally called. The pilot had turned off the radio in the airplane so he did not know he was supposed to be landing. A Navy fighter plane pulled up alongside the plane my husband was in and motioned for them to land. An airport employee ran out and told them planes were crashing into buildings, but they did not believe him. Then they walked into the airport and saw the televisions. We all met at home as quickly as we could that afternoon and I remember all of us sitting on the couch together dazed and holding onto each other while we watched the news reports.
Now, ten years later, I am wondering how many of us really learned the lessons of that day. How many of us remember that we learned what is most important—family, love, and God. We all tend to get busy with the other things in life and tend to let what is truly important fade away in our minds and in our daily practice. Yesterday I was wishing we could make September 11 into a national day of remembering what is really important. I think some of us already do exactly that. Now if we could just figure out how to remember every hour of every day…