Friday, September 9, 2011

Our Darkest Hour

With the 10 year anniversary of the September 11 attacks just a couple days away, I have been glued to television coverage of that fateful day, listening to account after account of survivor stories, tales of heroism and immense loss. I do not often allow myself to revisit that morning in my mind. The television images are still raw in my mind and the cavalcade of emotions I felt as I watched people die come flooding back with such force, I can still physically feel the pain.

I often think about how quickly the day is approaching that I will have to sit down with my children and explain to them that there are people out there so evil and full of blind hatred that they are willing to kill 3,000 innocent people whom they don't know and did nothing wrong. How will I find the words to gently convey the horror of that day so as not to frighten them, but to ensure a true understanding in this young generation so that history does not repeat itself.

And then, there is my personal story, which they have never heard. We all have one. We know where we were, what we were wearing, whom we were with; we remember every minute of that morning down the finest detail. I will share my story with you now.

Like so many others that beautiful Tuesday morning, I drove into work with the Kidd Kraddick 106.1 morning show blaring from my radio. Still a newlywed, I had kissed my husband goodbye early that morning as he caught an American Airlines flight bound for a Boston business trip. I can't remember what our parting words to each other were, but I'd like to think it was I love you. They might have been our last spoken words to each other.

When I arrived at my desk, I pulled up, as was my custom, to quickly get caught up on the day's news prior to starting my projects. The top headline was something along the lines of "Possible Plane Strikes World Trade Center" with a photo of that first, gaping hole in the side of 1 World Trade Center. I distinctly remember my first thought being, "Wow! Somebody's in trouble!"

A few minutes went by and then the phone started ringing as my family members called to make sure I had seen the news. I was without a television at my disposal, so my sister called and held the receiver up to her TV while I put the phone on speaker as my coworkers gathered around to listen. It was then that the second plane hit 2 World Trade Center. I remember with stark clarity the exact second it sunk in that we were under attack. And the realization that my husband was on a plane.

From that moment forward, it was a whirlwind of information, corrections to information, statistics, probabilities and fear. Such a great, paralyzing fear like none I had ever experienced before. I listened in panic to the announcers mistakenly report that our military had shot down an American Airlines flight over Shanksville, PA. I was gripped with terror that my husband may have been on one of those four doomed flights. None of us knew what was next, who was next, where was next… we were completely helpless.

For four hours I was unsure if my husband was dead or alive. Every imaginable scenario played out in my mind. Would I be a widow at 26? Would my husband be alive but horribly injured? How will I break this news to his mother? Who will break this news to me? It was torturous.

After a bit, I left work and drove to a friend's house to await word from James. Finally, that phonecall came and I heard his voice on the other line. He had no idea what had happened. His flight had been rerouted to Cincinnati when the Eastern Seaboard was shutdown and to prevent panic, the passengers were not told why. I listened to him cry as I told him about New York, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania. This evil that had been forced on us that day was so overpowering, tears flowed freely from even the strongest of men. My husband was no exception.

A few days later, as I reflected on the aftermath of the attacks and watched the continuous coverage of the recovery effort, I penned new lyrics to three of the verses to the Christian song "There's Somebody Out There." I'm not sure who originally recorded the song or wrote the original lyrics. I'm no Celine Dion, but below is a video tribute I put together with photos taken from the internet set to my version of There's Somebody Out There. May God give all of you peace this weekend as you reflect on your own story and memories of 9.11.01.

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1 comment:

Kirsten said...

That's quite a story Jeni. I'm so sorry for the hours of panic you had to go through. I am incredibly thankful that everything worked out for you the way it did.

I also wonder how I will explain this disaster to my future elementary students, especially considering I was their age when it happened. In fact the subject of how to teach 9/11 to our students has been the topic of many conversations in my classes this week. It's an awful thing that the generations after us will probably never be able to fully comprehend. I just might write a blog about my own experience on that day. This was very inspiring, as are all of your posts. God bless you! <3