Twelve years ago today, 9-11-01, I was driving my young son and daughter to their fifth and third grade classes at their elementary school. It would have been just after 8:00 Houston time. After I dropped them off I headed home with my eleven month old in the car-seat beside me.
The radio announcers were talking about a report that an airplane had accidentally hit the World Trade Center. There was a live reporter on the ground reporting from the scene. He said an airplane; probably a small prop plane had hit one of the towers. That’s when it happened. The second plane crashed into the other tower as he stood by and watched. At first he couldn't speak, when he did find the words he wanted to say were laced with disbelief, horror and tears. “This is not an accident. We are under attack.”
Panic set in. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn't call my husband; he had boarded a flight earlier that morning. My dad’s face popped into my mind. His shop was just around the corner from the kid’s school. He would know what to do.
I pulled into the shop driveway and honked my horn. Daddy came out of the office—the only one there at that time of morning. A concerned look came over his face as he glanced at my panicked expression. I told him to come listen to the radio in my car. When he heard the whole story he asked where Dan, my husband was. I told him he was in the air. He told me to go home…he would follow me.
I’d never seen that look on my father’s face. Something was terribly wrong.
We rushed to my house, turned on the television and checked on my mother who was safe at home. The news anchors told the horrific story:
American Airlines Flight 11: Left Boston's Logan Airport at 7:59 a.m. for Los Angeles. Hijackers flew the plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m.
United Airlines Flight 175: Left Logan Airport at 8:14 for Los Angeles Hijackers flew the plane into the South Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m. (This was the one I heard…as it happened…on the radio at 8:03 Houston time.)
American Airlines Flight 77: Left Washington Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia at 8:20 a.m. headed to Los Angeles. The hijackers flew this plane into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.
United Airlines Flight 93: Left Newark International Airport at 8:42 a.m. for San Francisco. The passengers banned together against the hijackers and the plane crashed to the ground near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m.
As the report came in about the fourth plane crash all I could think of was oh Dear God please make it stop. And it did…but then the buildings started to fall. I prayed for those trapped in the buildings, for the rescue teams, for our country. Heavenly Father help us all!
I needed to talk to my husband, but he hadn’t yet turned his cell phone back on following his flight. I panicked wondering if he’d even made it to his destination. My baby could sense my terror and whined all day long. The FAA grounded all planes within the continental U.S. at 8:40 a.m. Houston time. I called Dan’s phone number nonstop from the time he was supposed to have landed. He didn’t answer.
He finally turned his phone back on when he was in the taxi. He answered my call. My heart could start beating again. (From that day forward he calls me from the runway without fail. I hadn’t realized why he’d done that until just now.) I asked if he’d heard the news. He hadn’t so I told him. He relayed the information to his boss who didn’t believe a word of it. Dan was sick that he wasn’t there for me.
That’s pretty much all of my story. My dad stayed with me all day. He knew how upset I was. He told me to go check the kids out of school and I did. We didn’t know what else these terrorists had planned and we wanted them with us. They played video games all afternoon, having no understanding of the magnitude of what had happened.
My husband and his boss had to hitch a ride back home in another man’s rental car. Dan, along with the rest of the world will forever remember that horrible day. Not only because of the tragic circumstances but also because he would forever remember that America was ruthlessly violated the day before his 40th birthday.
In closing I would like to say…Happy birthday Dan. Let’s not have a repeat of your 40th!
Photo courtesy of Paul McRae (Delta Niner)