Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where were you...

Like most folks in America I imagine, I couldn't help but reflect on the events which occurred on September 11, 2001.  Where were you? What were you doing at the time you heard the news? And who were you with as the events of the day unfolded? Who did you call on the phone just to tell them... "I love you!"

A country song by Alan Jackson has been playing over and over in my head today.  Perhaps you know the song... here are the lyrics (it's a very nice song and Alan Jackson has a very nice, melodic voice):

"Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)"
Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or working on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin' against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?

Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don't know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?
Did you burst out in pride for the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died just doin' what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell
you the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you teaching a class full of innocent children
Or driving down some cold interstate?
Did you feel guilty 'cause you're a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone?
Did you call up your mother and tell her you loved her?
Did you dust off that Bible at home?

Did you open your eyes, hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep?
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Or speak to some stranger on the street?
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Or go out and buy you a gun?
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watchin'
And turn on "I Love Lucy" reruns?

Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers
Did you stand in line and give your own blood?
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love?

[Repeat Chorus 2x]
And the greatest is love.
And the greatest is love.

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?

As for me, I was just driving into the parking lot at work when I heard the announcement on the radio that one plane had flown into the World Trade Center. I quickly recalled a story about a very small plane flying into the Empire State Building decades before.  That's what I imagined it was... a small plane, an accident... you know, a small plane barely clipping the building?  An accident... certainly it had to be something like that.

I was with coworkers that day; I was upset that my husband and son were several states away, staying in a hotel while visiting my husband's dying grandfather.  I remembered how I had hated being alone when the Oklahoma Federal Buidling tragedy occurred in 1995 (my husband was working swing shift then).  I knew that on September 11th, I did not want to go home, to an empty house, and just sob in front of the TV.  Instead, after work, I went to WalMart to buy fabric for my young son's Halloween costume.  I did not mind waiting for the lady in the fabric department to assist me; I was extra patient and I thanked her profusely for taking the time to help me like she had.  I chatted with the other ladies in the fabric department; it just seemed like strangers wanted to relate and talk with one another.  Ordinarily, I would have been in a hurry or frustrated to have to wait.  I went to the check-out line.  People just kept talking to one another; I did not mind that my frozen items were thawing... it did not seem to matter.  The cashier said something about our country declaring war, a lady in line mentioned a grandchild who served in the National Guard and she was worried for his or her safety.  No one was in a hurry, we all just listened to one another as we all suddenly had so much in common.

I went home and worked and worked and WORKED on that Halloween costume.  I remember I stayed up really, REALLY late.  The costume was a Pokemon character called Charzar; a full body costume with a big zipper down the back. There was a head covering, mitts for the hands and shoe covers for the feet. The hands and feet had triangular shaped claws made out felt, all carefully stitched on.  The back of the costume had a big, stuffed tail and wings.  I used red and gold lame fabric so it looked like there was a little fire shooting out of the creature's tail.  Somehow I used some fishing line and safety pins to make the wings hold up (as opposed to draping like a cape).  It was quite elaborate for sure. I think at one point I figured I spent about 10 hours working on the costume for every 1 hour my son actually wore it.

I remember my drive to work on September 12th.  As I backed out of my drive way, I noticed my next-door neighbor, Louis, had his American flag on display on the front of his home.  Ordinarily, Louis only put out the flag on the Fourth of July and Flag Day (maybe Memorial Day and Veteran's Day, too).  And as I drove by more and more homes on my drive to work, I noticed more and more flags flying... such a quiet but BIG statement.  Seeing the flags made me cry and I remember never feeling more proud to be an American than I was at that very moment.

I remembering worrying about my husband and son returning from their trip to see family. I remember on the news, there were people lining up to get gasoline for their cars, concerned the gas would run out.  I remember being relieved when my husband and son made it home. 

For a number of weeks in September 2001, I remember bright blue skies on sunny days with no jet trails criss-crossing the sky to fly over the Sangre de Cristo and Rocky Mountains to the west of us.  I remember the sunny day in mid-September when husband and I were playing tennis.  Finally, the first jet we had seen in weeks flew over head and we stopped to watch go by.

I imagine today you are remembering, too.  Rembering where you were, how it made you feel, who you were with... memories we will carry inside us for the rest of our days.

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