Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Will Never Forget Where I Was When...

I remember growing up my grandparents, parents, teachers etc would talk about how they would always remember where they were and what they were doing when XYZ happened. As a child I sort of took this as another version of the "When I was you age I walked through the snow barefoot to get to school and was NEVER late" type of thing. 

That was until Tuesday, September 11, 2001. 

8:30 AM
I was a 19 year old student at Texas Wesleyan University and my parents were leaving on vacation that morning. Like most days I woke up, turned the TV on and started getting ready for class. 

Around 8:55 AM
While blow drying my hair, I glanced over to the TV and I started to see the images. I immediately stopped drying my hair and started listening, trying to make sense of what was happening. A plane has crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. 

9:03 AM
Before the eyes of millions across the world, a second plane crashes into the World Trade Center South Tower. At that moment it all became very clear - this was no accident. And as terrifying and heartbreaking as what I just watched was, all I knew was my mom and dad were on a plane, in mid-flight. As tears streamed down my face, I began to pray for their safety. 

Around 9:15 AM
In a total panic, I remember calling Kipper (who was still asleep) and repeating you have to turn on the TV, America is under attack and that I couldn't get a hold of my parents because their plane had already taken off.  Of course he thought I was freaking out over something random, until he turned on the news. 

 9:30 AM
I headed off to my first class of the day. To this day I still don't remember why I went to class. I guess I figured all I would do in my dorm was panic and worry. Of course when the professor arrived, the only thing anyone talked about was the events that had taken place less than an hour ago. It was clear we weren't going to actually have class that day. 

 Around 9:45 AM
Another professor came into the room, letting us know that something had happened at the Pentagon. The fear and panic increased, and our professor dismissed class. 

 9:50 AM
A group of us walk back to the dorms together. In my rush earlier I left my TV on and right as I entered my room I saw the images of the South Tower collapse. I grabbed the phone to call my parents and they answered.  To this day I remember the huge sense of relief that flooded my body. They had arrived safely and were able to get a rental car before the the airports had shut down. (which was even more of a God send because they fact they had their car before they halted air travel was the only reason they were able to make it home from their trip because they couldn't fly and their were no rental cars to be found!)  

That hour was honestly the longest hour of my life that I had ever experienced. With that said I could never begin to imagine what the family members of those who were on those flights or were in the towers or of the rescue workers felt. I had to wait barely an hour to hear my loved ones were safe, I couldn't imagine waiting hours or days.  Now I truly understood what people meant when they said "I will never forget what I was doing when..."

Fast forward 5 years, Kipper and I were in New York for our 2nd wedding anniversary. He really wanted to go to Ground Zero but I honestly didn't want to. Looking back, I never really had a real reason for not wanting to go, but I think deep down inside it scared me. Five years later the thought still scared me because I didn't want to relieve the emotions from that morning. But I faced those fears and we went and I am so glad I did. It is something that I will never forget and never want to forget.

Kipper took so many amazing, emotionally charged photos that day that I really deserve to be included in this blog. But there is one photo that I snapped that has always stuck with me (and not just because I took it!)  As we were walking down the stairs from the viewing area on the black plywood wall someone had written a note that caught my eye. It wasn't a well crafted and deep note. It was just simple and real. It was just one person expressing their emotions, but those emotions spoke to so many more.

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