How 9/11 Affected Me, Then and Now

FIRST PERSON | My husband and I were both home on 9/11. Ken’s back was out and he was confined to bed. I had recently taken a LOA from the bank to take care of my son, who was at school. I had dozed off on the couch while watching the news and was only semi-conscious as I listened to the anchors describing what had taken place.

I remember viewing a scene of the first tower in a dreamlike state. As I was slowly absorbing the information, trying to wake up, it suddenly dawned on me what had actually happened. I sat up, immediately becoming alert as I watched the first tower burning. My husband hobbled out of the bedroom because he could hear the TV. We sat there watching in horror as the second plane hit.

I’ll never forget the horrors I viewed that day. As the news progressed throughout the afternoon, about the Pentagon and Flight 93, as the towers collapsed, as I saw thousands running from a huge black cloud of ash and as I saw the helpless victims falling, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of despair. I alternately cried and sat in shocked disbelief throughout the remainder of the day. I got up only to meet my son’s school bus and care for him.

When I tried to steer his attention from the TV (he was 6 at the time), he said, “That’s OK, mom. We’ve been watching at school.” Apparently his teacher had used this as a learning opportunity for her second graders. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. At first I was angry that he was exposed to it, but at the same time I knew that there was no way for anyone to go about their daily routine that day. At least it was in an educational environment that he learned what had happened. How were we supposed to shield our children from this atrocity that had consumed every form of media?

The next day I had to go shopping. I pulled up to the grocery store and saw a group of young Middle Eastern men gathered outside around a pay phone near the entrance. I was afraid to even walk by them to go in the store. As I sat there in my car I knew that I was at a turning point; everyone in this country was at a turning point. Do we live in fear from this moment on? I had already called 911 earlier that morning when a mosquito control plane flew over the canal in my back yard. How did I know that it was only spraying pesticides and not a poison gas of some sort? I wasn’t the only one who called, based on the operator’s response.

So, as I sat there in my car I had to ask myself is this how I really want to live the rest of my life? Isn’t that exactly what the terrorists wanted? When I asked myself this question, I knew the answer; I would not let them win by keeping me in a state of fear. I got out of my car and walked right by them, only once stealing a glance at them. They were also watching me. I had glanced over so quickly that I only focused on one of them. His face was questioning, as though he wondered if I thought he was guilty of something.

Did I? I struggled with that question while I shopped. Should I call someone? What would I say? I see 5 or 6 Middle Eastern men talking on a payphone? Was I being paranoid? Again, I realized that’s exactly what they wanted. When I left the store, they were gone. I spoke to my husband about the incident and he thought I was being paranoid. Wouldn’t 911 already have a record of my call earlier that day? They would also write me off as paranoid. I can only imagine the number of frightened callers they must have had to deal with, me being one of them.

My vocabulary certainly expanded that day and in the coming weeks. I learned about Osama bin Laden and Al Queda, Jihad and the Taliban, Sunnis and Shiites and Sharia. I was a newshound before this took place but now I have the news on almost all day, every day. I have made an effort to listen and learn about everything regarding the Middle East and their philosophy. I have tried to learn about the Jewish faith and its role in the centuries-old battle between Jews and Muslims. I have tried to learn about Christianity; how can I call myself a Christian if I don’t understand it? I have to understand it and the only way is to go back to the beginning; this “holy war” has been going on for two thousand years. We just weren’t a part of it until 9/11.

My son now says I’m too “educational” and my husband thinks I’m obsessed with news. It has caused some discord, but he accepts that’s just who I am. He has his sports, after all. I wish I could be more laid back like that. Where Ken is concerned, he will not allow 9/11 to steer the direction of his life. Overall, I would have to say that they didn’t win. They just made the spider aware that a fly was in his web….

God bless all the families and those who lost someone on 9/11. I will never forget them.

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