Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 12

I was 33 years old at the time.....a stay at home mom with a minivan, who'd dropped off my second grade daughter at school and had the news turned on in the background as I did housework.  My one year old son was taking a nap in his baby bed.  My husband was at work.  Everything was right in my little world. 

I was in the kitchen when I could tell that some kind of major story was developing on the news channel, so I stopped what I was doing and sat down in the den to watch.  It was a plane that had crashed into one of the twin towers and the talking heads speculated that it looked to be some kind of bizarre accident.  I watched the building as smoke and flames poured out of the gaping holes left by the jet and you couldn't help but think about the people....the moms and dads and sisters and brothers...... who, on that typical Tuesday morning, were sitting at their desks on those floors where this plane had accidentally flown into this building. 

As the cameras rolled through the dark clouds of jet fuel smoke, another plane came on the screen and flew into the south tower......and things changed.  We changed.  There I sat in that burgundy, wingback recliner with a damp kitchen towel still in my hand......with one child sleeping in his room and the other at her school and, as their mother, I changed.

That morning, the cable news frantically jumped from one breaking story to the next.....bouncing all over the country covering the seemingly endless trail of tragedies that knocked us all off of our feet and made it impossible to breathe.  I sat in that chair stunned.....wondering when it would stop.  Would it ever stop?  How many planes could there be?  Where would the next one crash?  I'd never felt that unsettled in my lifetime and haven't since then.

It was a chilling day.  Almost too much to bear as you watched people forced to choose their means of death as they hung out of  the smoking windows.  I will never forget the ties and skirts that flew up in the air as, one by one, people made their decisions to jump.  I remember thinking...that's someone's mother, friend....favorite uncle.  This can't be happening in America.
From that day on, mothers couldn't think about their children's futures without a looming uncertainty casting a shadow over their thoughts.  There I sat with dreams of my little girl's proms, graduations, and being mother of the bride, one day.  I couldn't wait until I could watch my son's little league games, see him grow taller than me, and take him for his driving test.  That second plane took away our innocent belief that nothing could happen to us here.......our unblemished look towards our children's futures and the world into which we had brought them. And for just a moment, on that day fifteen years ago, we began to question all of that.  What did all of this mean for them?  Mothers, aunts, godmothers, grandmothers......we thought of those young faces that we loved and felt responsible for and, on the 11th, we cried for them most of all.
But we caught our breath and then came the twelfth.  The twelfth brought resolve, determination, unity, and story after story of heroism.  The twelfth brought out what makes us America.  We raised our flags.  We searched and rescued and dug with our hands.  We stood with the grieving and gave respect to our dead.  We reached into our pockets for the fatherless.  We cleaned up....piece by piece by piece.  We started to rebuild.  We felt renewed patriotism.  We filled church pews.  We sent up prayers.  And on the twelfth, we got up and sent our children to school and we went to work.  We refused to give into the fear.  We refused to let evil win.

I don't guess I've ever seen a more unified America in my lifetime as I saw post 9/11.  Seems like that horrific attack gave us a real sense of connection with our fellow Americans.  It made us more protective of one another.  I suppose we felt more united because we all were all feeling the same vulnerability.  The same anger.  The same sadness.  Maybe in some strange way, we felt a bond in knowing that our neighbor was feeling just as shaken as we were. There's a real connection between people who are experiencing the same pain in life. There was an overall sense that we were in this together and we were going to have to look out for one another.  No matter how many racial, religious, economic, or social differences distinguished us, the transcending bond was that we were all Americans and we'd been attacked. That was all that mattered. 

I think about the firemen and policemen who ran up those steps toward the peril and how most of them didn't make it back out.  About the stories of the young man in the red bandana and others working in the buildings who'd escaped the danger and were home free but went back in to help their fellow man.  In the end, saving others but not themselves.  I think about the guys on flight 93 who acted quickly to keep their plane from becoming another missile used to strike a U.S. target.  They chose to die on their a desolate field in order to save lives somewhere else.   I think about the people who dug through the steel, the concrete, and the dust for months and months after the attack.  Many have since died and continue to die from cancers and other diseases related to their work there.  I think about the soldiers who've fought in retaliation against those who attacked us and continue to plot attacks on our way of life.  Some came home in coffins and others with life changing disabilities. I think about the families and children of the military and police officers and firemen whose lives were also changed.  So much given.  So much loss.  So much sacrifice.   

On this anniversary weekend, our little Mississippi town lost a firefighter in a crash while answering an emergency call to help someone else in trouble.  And on professional football fields all over the country, some players who make 150 times what that fireman made thumbed their noses at the very country which has given them so much for doing so little.  What a dichotomy. 
Division is rampant.  Patriotism is on the verge of becoming a bad word.  Concern is increasingly turned inward.

We've come so far in these last 15 years. 

So far in the wrong direction. 

But, tomorrow is the twelfth.  And we have a chance to get up with the same resolve and determination that we had back then.  We have the choice to resuscitate our love of country or throw our hands up and let complacency win.  We have the chance to do more giving and less taking.  More responsibility and less demonstration.  More working and less shouting.  More being useful and less being offended.  We can use our hands to get busy again.  To reach across lines.  To love our neighbor.  To pull our weight.  To distribute more respect.  To clean up the mess we've made. 

And to pray to our God for healing and mercy. 

What will we do with the twelfth?        




  1. Love this post! I was a college freshmen on 9/11. I had just broken up with my high school boyfriend of 3 years and I was completely heartbroken. Then 9/11 happened and my heart broke even more. It was such a hard time for our country. I will never forget it as long as I live. I just pray for our nation every day because I have a lot of fear about the world my kids are growing up in.

    1. We'll always remember what was going on in our lives at that time. Bless your had a lot to deal with at once, April. And you're right...prayer is our best plan of action now.

  2. Another great read here. I hope it's okay that I mentioned these sentiments and linked to your blog today in a Twitter post. Thanks for putting words around my thoughts and feelings on 9-11 (and 9-12)

    1. Thank you for sharing, Jeannie. I appreciate you.

  3. Seems like yesterday, it stays with you. The collective togetherness to help each other was amazing, so many heroes. I wish our Country stayed that way, but heroes ( first responders and regular folks ) are still among us, thank the Lord:). There is still hope among mankind:).
    Have a wonderful day Joni,
    Kathleen in Az

    1. Amen, Kathleen. There is plenty of good among us still.

  4. Beautifully written, Joni! Inspiring and encouraging! May I share it?

    1. Thank you, Jee Jee. I would love for you to share anytime.