Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Where were you?

I was supposed to fly that day. I tried to take an 8:30 am flight from my folks' in Florida, but changed my mind at the last minute and decided to take an extra vacation day. My plans to fly back that night were thwarted by the ground stop.

I was asleep on the couch at Mom's when my sister called me and said, 'Two planes hit the World Trade Center and they think it's terrorism. Turn on CNN.'

I did. I called Mom, Dad, and my friend Scott. About ten minutes after I turned on the TV, the South tower fell. I was on the phone with Dad when it happened. Scott was in bed; I woke him up. He couldn't believe it either.

Reports came in from everywhere; the Pentagon, the White House. President Bush was in Florida so they had a lockdown at the schools. My nephew finally was released from kindergarten at 12noon.

The neighbor lady Joy came over. She was fit to be tied about the lockdown and we were both hysterical over what had happened. We stood outside and listened to the silence in the sky - the sound of no planes flying over because of the ground stop.

We tried to remind ourselves God was in control. The Taliban appeared on TV. I hated them on sight. On Wednesday, still at Mom's, I finally looked in the mirror. I saw the same shock, anger and grief in my eyes that had been on the faces of the news anchors, politicians, soldiers and other people on television. I did not cry. I was too numb.

One of my sister's college friends called in a tip to the FBI about a guy who lived in his apartment building. They had found his car at the airport filled with terrorist stuff, I think, and dude called to tell the police more information. I have the Orlando Sentinel EXTRA and the New York Times from those days. I finally drove back, averaging 85 mph, and made the 10 hour drive in about 8 hours. I stopped only once, and never changed the radio station from NPR.

I watched CNN for a month solid. I prayed for Lauren Manning daily. I never did get a flag for my car, though.

Last July my sister and I happened to drive past THE PINK PONY, the strip club where some of the terrorists partied before going to their whorehouse heaven. It's empty and desolate, completely free of any signs of life.

I also went to Ground Zero in July. It's bigger than you would imagine, and cleaner than you would think. In Grand Central station there is still a folding screen covered with missing fliers. It broke my heart. Photographing it seemed like violating someone's privacy.

I saw many signs in shop windows that said I (heart) NY MORE THAN EVER. That was the best thing. There is a memorial on the fence of St. Paul's across from Ground Zero covered in every imaginable display of patriotism, grief, and support. New York is a kinder place now than I remember, or perhaps I am kinder; at any rate, there was a warmth there this time that I don't remember being there previously.

I pray this country never forgets there are evil men whose sole ambition is to destroy us.


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