Monday, September 11, 2006
Where Were You?
That question’s been around awhile. My parents asked it, referring to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Again, when JFK was assassinated; then, when the Challenger exploded. Now we ask it, of September 11th. Such a monumental day in our history we simply call it by the date.

Where was I? To answer that, and not sound completely heartless, let me tell where I’d been the few previous days.

On August 30, 2001 our oldest daughter, Sarah, had a somewhat difficult time delivering her son, Caiden. Anyone who has a daughter who’s delivered a baby understands what you experience. Wishing you could do it for them. Praying mother and baby will be okay. It’s a little wearing.

A week after Caiden was born, Friday, September 7, 2001, was the second football game of our son, Dan’s senior year. We saw him intercept a pass, then get tackled mid-air and go down out of bounds. He seemed to lie there, a crumpled mess, for an eternity. Something was wrong. Sitting on the top row of the home bleachers, I started beating on my husbands leg, saying, “He’s not moving, he’s not moving. When he started writhing on the sideline I took a breath. Still, he didn’t get up. The team physician went over, knelt down beside him. We made our way down the bleachers, walked across the field. When we reached him, it was apparent his ankle was broken; it would require surgery and end his senior football season. In pain, I heard him say, “Mom, I’m not ready to be done.” Prying his football pads and helmet off, wheeling him into the back of the ambulance, climbing into the front with the driver, felt surreal. I spent the remainder of the weekend in the hospital, where he had a metal plate screwed into his ankle. He came home in a wheelchair, heartbroken.

I don’t want to over-dramatize his injury. He could move limbs. He was going to be fine. Emotionally he wasn’t so great, and consequently, neither was I. Dan was an athlete. Starting lineup football, starter basketball, track team, possible college scholarships. Since he was 5, playing sports defined him. On September 11, he was in the family room in a hospital bed we’d set up for him. It had been a long weekend, involving little sleep, shots for pain, visitors, raw emotions.

When I turned on the TV that morning, I saw coverage of the first tower being hit. I really couldn’t absorb it. When the second one was hit, I thought NYC was being attacked. I began to hear of a plane circling in our area, southwestern PA. I think I phoned my daughters. I imagine I phoned my husband at work. I don’t remember the sequence of events very well.

When Flight 93 went down, my mother phoned. I remember telling her ‘it didn’t really affect me. We were okay'. I knew something was wrong, but there was no room in my world that morning for more. Of anything. I turned off the TV, went back to caring for my son. There wasn’t enough in me to watch bodies falling from top floors of skyscrapers and care for my son. So I chose to tend to my son's needs and tune out.

It took two years to absorb that day. I was so spent, after Caiden’s birth, and our son’s injury, I had no emotions to offer up in September 2001. Since then, I’ve read the biography of Todd Beamer. The crash site of Flight 93 is near where my husband and I often camp. It’s a beautiful, wooded area with rolling hills. We’ve been twice to stand by the fence that protects what is essentially a burial ground for all those on board that flight. The temporary memorial consists of crosses and photos posted of every person on the plane. It feels very real when you are there, looking across that field that still has a carved out look to it. There is a separate road and entrance, reserved for relatives of the victims of that flight, so they can get closer. By right, we stand back a bit.

I never was able to get my arms around the vastness of the event. September 11 is defined in my heart by one plane, and really one man, Todd Beamer. The wife and children he left behind. If you haven’t read the book, "Let's Roll", you will be moved by Lisa’s steadfastness, her testimony, through incredibly difficult circumstances. She had two small children and was pregnant when Todd died. When I think of September 11, I wonder how Lisa is doing. One woman, one family. When her child was born, it made the paper. I hurt for her to have her grief made public, again.

When my husband and I flew a few weeks after September 11, to finally meet Caiden, there were soldiers with machine guns in the airport. It was a very somber place. People were still quiet, serious. Since then my nephew has done two stints in Iraq, leaving behind a wife and small child while he served. We didn’t take his time there lightly. We prayed fervently for him to come home. He did. We’re grateful for God’s protection and mercy. One soldier. One family.

Where am I now, writing this post? I’m 37,000 miles up, flying over Texarkana, Memphis and Bowling Green, headed home. I was not allowed to bring any liquids on board this flight. There were again soldiers in the airport. I prayed for their safety as we passed each other.

September 11 didn't evoke fear in me. It evoked empathy. Everyday empathy. What happened to us as a nation, a world, gave me a new awareness that others hurt. God doesn’t give us more than we can bear without Him, but life still sometimes feels full to overflowing. The woman who cut me off on the highway may have all she can handle right now with a husband who left her with a bunch of kids and bills she can’t pay. The grouchy grocery clerk may have a child with an addiction problem. Or an addiction problem himself. The woman in my Bible study who isn’t very friendly may not be able to tell me her husband just lost his job, or is having an affair. Or bankruptcy is looming. Life’s hard, more days than not. Sometimes we have all we can absorb. September 11 changed me. It just took awhile.

Five years later, Lisa Beamer and her three children are on my mind, and in my prayers. I think she’ll be thankful when this day, the five year anniversary, is over and she can put her children to bed. She can miss her husband in the privacy of her heart, not for the whole world to observe. One woman, one man. I know my world is small. It’s just whittled down to a size I can handle.

To read more remembrances of September 11, go visit Shannon.

  posted at 7:00 AM

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    Girl Raised in the South

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