Where were you when the world stopped turning?
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
The following is a description of the morning of September 11, 2001, in the small bubble that was my life.
I was heading up the freeway in bumper-to-bumper traffic to the Federal Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles for an 8:00 a.m. court date. The DA's office was trying to prosecute a criminal case against my ex-husband for "felony child abandonment," for non-payment of child support to the tune of almost $50,000.
This was the fifth or sixth court date in almost three years of legal wrangling. Add the fact that I rarely drove, let alone on the freeway, plus it being the early morning rush hour, and my stress level was through the roof.
I was a mental wreck a lot of the time back then anyway, as dealing with my ex in general was a nightmare. My daughter Aubrey, just 16, suffered emotionally because of her father's cruel behavior, the few times he would actually make time to see her, and that weighed on my mind even more than the financial issues.
It was about 7:30 a.m. Pacific Time, and my new husband called on my cell phone; despite driving, I answered, because he wouldn't have called unless it was very important. He asked me if I had the radio on, but I didn't because of the traffic.
All he said was, "turn on the radio, it doesn't matter which station." As I listened to Rick Dees, the DJ, my life changed in ways I never could have imagined. My entire country changed, in a few short hours, in ways I never could have imagined.
I called my children at home. Scott, 21, was out already, and I didn't talk to him until later in the day when he finished working. Aubrey was getting ready for school. I told her to turn on the TV, and she described what was being shown. We stayed on the phone talking as I continued to drive downtown, and we both cried.
When I arrived, I thought it was strange there were parking spaces available nearby. I parked, gathered up all my files, piled them on my walker and gimped my way to the courthouse - only to be met by police and soldiers, concrete barriers and guns.
I didn't realize: Federal Courthouse, Target. As I naively turned the corner and headed for the entrance, they yelled at me, "Go home! Get off the streets! Stay inside!" That's when the shock and rage became fear and sadness.
I got back on the freeway to head home, and based on the traffic, so did a lot of others. I found out later most all the buildings in downtown were shut down and the workers sent home. I had told my daughter she had to go to school, as the teachers and counselors at school would gather their resources and be able to help the students deal with what was happening (and I didn't know when I'd be home).
With an empty house waiting for me, I couldn't go home. I drove to my husband's work, and we held each other and talked for awhile. Then I drove to the Red Cross Blood Center to donate blood right away, rather then wait for my regular appointment for platelets donation.
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the line of people waiting to donate - it went out the building and down the street. This was the reaction of a lot of people in the U.S. Fact is, that's usually what the American people do, no matter who-what-when-where the disaster happens: we immediately reach out and say, "how can I help?"
It didn't take long to learn what politcal sentiment was to blame for 9-11, and that also filled me with fear. I went to the two gas stations where I regularly fill up which are owned by Muslims, immigrants from somewhere in the Middle East. I told them I hoped that they had not been harmed or threatened in any way by the anger people were feeling, and I wanted them to know not all Americans felt that way.
I have had many experiences with the military and as a military wife that have filled me with pride. I've never been able to listen to or sing Lee Greenwood's song, "Proud to Be an American" without crying, remembering the soldiers I've known. Along with the terrorist threats we faced overseas during the Cold War, while our countrymen at home had no idea of the danger, I think of the young soldiers coming home now, and the welcome and support they are receiving at last.
But I have never been as proud to be an American as I was in watching the country pull together after 9-11, the work at Ground Zero, the story of Flight United 93. That is what makes America "America."
On this solemn day, I remember how all the anxiety I was feeling at the time faded away into minutia, and the ONLY thing important in my life became the gratitude I felt and feel for the safety of my family.
I'd like to dedicate the song above (in the blog's title) to everyone out there like me, who may not have had a direct loss but still had their lives greatly impacted, in remembrance of 9-11. In honor of all the lives lost, people traumatized, and the families affected, I'd lke to say, "Let's Roll."