I was stirred from my sleep by the phone repeatedly wringing. It was early morning here in California, much too early for people to be calling. When the second line, which had a phone in my room, started ringing too, it pulled me completely from my slumber. Why were so many people calling this early in the morning? I walked out into the living room to find my mother sitting on the couch crying. She looked at me through the tears and said, “We’re under attack.” The television was on displaying these two large towers, one of which had smoke billowing from one of its higher floors. Within minutes, I watched in horror as a plane came bombing into the side of the second tower, listening as the newscaster screamed in panic. They are usually so poised.
It felt a tad as if the world was melting around me. The first few hours that morning were some of the most tense and scariest I have felt in all my life. We learned of another plane smashing into the side of the Pentagon. Another coming down in a field in Pennsylvania. Up and down the eastern seaboard. What next? What would keep them from the western side of our country?
It was horrific watching that plane crash. But then, the first tower came down. It crumpled like a sheet of paper. I just kept thinking, That can’t happen. This must be fake. There are hundreds of people inside those buildings. Just seconds before, the camera had panned in on a person waving a piece of cloth of some sort to let rescuers know there were people trapped on that floor. Like a game of vertical dominos, the tower came down on itself one floor after another.
The television was now showing people scrambling for their lives on the street, covered in a white film while pieces of paper floated down out of the sky around them. It was truly surreal. I felt so helpless. All I wanted to do was sweep those dear people out of harm’s way.
At around noon time here in California, it seemed like the attacks had finally stopped. Now, we listened in as people searched in desperation for their loved ones. Life seemed at a standstill that day all over the U.S. Perhaps the world. We were united in solidarity for those suffering. In truth, we were all suffering. The attack killed 2,996 but it was an attack against every one of us. They were aiming at what we stand for, what we believe in as Americans
And everybody seemed to know somebody who died that day, be it a personal friend or relative, a friend of a friend, a neighbor. And there were the stories of the near misses — those who had for some reason or another been late to work that day, those who had been on a trip to NY only the week before and wandered the floors of those buildings, those who had missed their flights or were bumped to another.
I was on a crew team at the time. Nothing kept us from our exercise routine. But there would be no rowing that day as the dam below the lake we rowed on was closed and all the waterways surrounding it for fear it might be targeted. It was a day of intense fear. Who knew what was coming next?
As I reflected back on that September day 13 years ago, I hope in my heart that this has ended. But, still, I fear it has not. Let us continue to pray for those affected by the horrible attacks that day and those who continue to be attacked for those same reasons. May God grant us safety and peace.