I was at home, most likely in the kitchen of our previous house; we moved into this one in 2003. My older children were at school. The ages of all five on that date were 12, 10, 7, and 3, while the youngest was 10 months old. I was unaware that the world was changing until my husband called me from his office and told me, “I think we are under attack. Turn on the TV.”
Several minutes later, I was on the phone with a friend…we were both agape in our respective homes, monopolized by the real-time, raw footage playing before us on our TVs. I remember it was hard to think at all. Time seemed frozen. The kids were somewhere in the house, probably not far from me, but I wasn’t attending to them. Alina, now 17, remembers playing with her Madeline doll and not understanding why I didn’t seem to hear her.
“There’s goes the second tower,” I remember Susan saying on the phone. Sure enough, as if in suspended animation, the by-now-inevitable implosion played across the screen.
I remember being at work when the Challenger shuttle blew up in the late 1980s. I remember being sent home from school early in first grade when President Kennedy was shot dead. But this was a different order of magnitude.
My children are 22, 20, 17, 13, and 10. The oldest is out with a friend, the second is asleep in preparation for his 5am start time for work in the morning. The third is collecting her school work for the start of a new week tomorrow. The fourth and fifth are talking about what it must have been like 10 years ago, when she was 1 and he was 3, wondering why Mom was riveted to the TV screen. Last night, we were with my parents and 25 others, celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. A decade earlier, we were at the same restaurant celebrating their 50th.
Tonight, my husband and I have lately returned from a cookout with an adult growth group from our church. Minutes ago, I finished grading Cecily’s Easy Grammar homework and entered her weekly average score on her Grade Logue.
This morning I was at church, listening as a man on the platform read out the speech that had been given by President George W. Bush in the aftermath 10 years ago. The image of the American flag, and various images from 9-11-01 were projected on the walls, succeeded some minutes later by the hymn and praise chorus lyrics we sing Sunday by Sunday. The principles expounded in the sermon that followed were true 10 years ago and are true today. They will always be true because they are transcendent and timeless.
But our collective consciousness is irretrievably altered, and in a way without precedent.
• I was impressed by the immensity of the new 9-11 memorial waterfall captured in broadcast and internet coverage. President and Mrs. Obama, and former President and Mrs. Bush looked tiny in comparison.
• With some surprise, I listened and watched President Obama read Psalm 46 at the remembrance ceremony at the Pentagon this morning. That was part of this morning’s reality. Less than a year ago, and probably again next week, there will be renewed babble about the (im)propriety of building a Muslim “community center” several hundred feet from Ground Zero.
• I was actually awed as I listened to Vice President Biden speak about the losses suffered, and the smelted resolve of Americans as a result of the 9-11 attacks. Rarely have I seen or heard a message, on any topic, put across with so much passion, power, eloquence, and strength under control. It changed my opinion of him.
• It was unexpected to me to see shots from around the world showing people of other nations paying tribute to the losses suffered by the US that day. I remember one photo caption described how a fire brigade from Clerkenwell, somewhere in London, stood at attention…not much more than a dozen, but they all stood straight and somber.