Monday, September 15, 2008

The day we will never forget...

Thank you for your very nice words for me after receiving the snarky comment about not posting about 911 earlier! I appreciated them very much.

First posted September 11, 2006

There are parts of that morning I remember, some are a blur. I know my husband was up very early to catch a flight to New England. I can't remember if I was up early to see him off or if I'd slept in. Leaving on a jet plane was familiar in our house. He was always "going to" or "coming home from" the airport each week.

Detroit was a difficult place for my son and me, coming from rural areas and a college town. Neither of us were used to millions of people living in one, relatively small area of real estate. The sounds of traffic at all hours of the day and night on surrounding four-lane “streets” were at the least...distracting. The racial tension was new to us.

We lived in a suburb off of Twelve Mile Road. Detroit proper begins at Eight Mile Road. The only color. Mostly white on one side, mostly black on the other. Otherwise, you could drive miles and not know when you are leaving one suburb and going into another. We learned never to go out alone at dark. Since my husband was traveling most of the time, we stayed home at night. We both remember the day we were out later than we had anticipated and we had to walk home after the sun went down. Rather, we ran home...

We had moved a lot to follow my husband's career. In each community, we would look for something good. (Some towns were easy, some not so easy to find the good things.) Living in Detroit had one very good thing we enjoyed. Within walking distance were numerous neighborhood restaurants, grocery stores, produce stores, etc. It was nice when planning dinner to be able to walk five minutes to the produce store for fresh vegetables.

For many years, we had a family tradition to have breakfast or lunch at a restaurant on the day Dad was leaving for a business trip. Somehow, it made it not so bad. On this day, we decided to have a late breakfast at our favorite neighborhood diner. (It is the place my son still misses from Detroit.) I had briefly looked at the news at home. One of the early morning news shows was talking about a plane having gone into the World Trade Center. At this time, they thought it was most likely a small private plane. It made news but it hadn't interrupted their regular programming.

My son and I walked to the diner and sat at our usual table. Our favorite waitress took our order. There is a unique feature of most neighborhood diners in Detroit. They have at least one television placed where it is easily seen by customers. I do remember my son and I were talking about Dad's trip, how he was being transferred to New England and how excited we were about the transfer. Once in awhile, I'd look at the TV where Good Morning America was now showing the World Trade Center on fire. Speculation had begun that this was more than originally thought.

Then the little TV on the wall showed us a picture that will never leave our minds, the second plane hitting the other tower. The hosts were asking the same question I was thinking, "Did you see that"? My mind could not comprehend what it meant but deep within my stomach was now a heaviness that didn't leave. I'm not certain it has ever left. All of us knew when that second plane hit, this was no accident. My son was only eleven at the time but he knew something terrible was happening. By this time, we had finished our breakfast. We both agreed we wanted to be home, surrounded by familiar "things" in an unfamiliar city.

We weren't concerned about my husband at this time. There was no way his plane would have been involved in those events, or the crashing into the Pentagon later. Then we heard rumors of other planes down. Finally, a report of a crash over Pennsylvania. The timing couldn't have been worse; his Chicago to New England flight would have been around that area at the same time. It wasn't until much later that we would know the flight had originated from the East. We stayed in front of the TV all day. Calls went back and forth between my daughter and me. Had we heard from Dad? Did his office know anything? Hours had passed, where could he possibly be?

Finally...that evening...a call. He hadn't heard about the plane crashing in Pennsylvania so he figured we knew he was safe (what is it about men that they think this way?). The first tower had been hit when he was in the air on the way to Chicago. Everyone leaving that flight knew something was wrong as soon as they entered the airport. Groups of people were surrounding the TVs. Then the flight monitors begin to show "cancelled" for every flight. It took him awhile to realize what this meant. He made his way to the rental car area, along with hundreds of other people. Every rental car was gone. The people at the rental car agency spent hours trying to locate cars for those stranded in Chicago. Eventually he would take a taxi to a town in Northwestern Indiana where there "might" be a car he could rent the next day. He ended up back in Detroit two days later.

In the days that followed, the only air traffic over us was the helicopters providing security at the American-Canadian border. It was an eerie feeling; normally the sky is full of aircraft going to and from the International Airport, news helicopters, police helicopters, private planes, etc. The next weeks and months would have Detroit on a high alert for terrorist activity. I half expected to hear an explosion at any time.

Our world was changed that day, both personally and as a nation. The much anticipated transfer to New England was cancelled. My husband would soon be out of a job. The foreign parent company had decided to close the New England plant entirely and cut back their Detroit holdings due to the economic uncertainty brought about by 9/11. Due to illness, my husband never worked as an engineer again but at least our Dad did come home. There were a lot of families who never received that much anticipated call of safety.


ginny said...

Brenda, Thanks for sharing your experience of 9/11. I too, lived in Detroit, actually for most of my life. My family moved to Brighton MI about 14yrs ago. I know exactly what you meant about Detroit. The one thing I miss that we do not experience here, is a feeling of "neighbors". We used to sit on each others' porches and have coffee and cookies in the evening, and spend a lot of time visiting each other. Also, our church community was so close and intimate, that I miss the smallness of it all.
I can just imagine the fear that gripped you when your husband was on a plane that day. Thank God he was safe. It still pains me to re-live that day, however, I never want to forget how our country pulled together in a time of crisis, and how so many people turned to God for strength. Thanks, ginny

Sharon said...

Thank you for sharing this.Though we lived in Oregon when this occurred I too will never forget that morning.Waking up and not hearing music from my favorite Christian radio station,but nr=ews about a plane and then another.Turning on the TV to see the second plane hit the towers.Weeping at the loss of life I knew must have occurred.I even recall it was a bright and sunny day here.We went out to get gas and shop later.I was amazed at the sudden display of patriotism I saw everywhere.Flags donned cars and trucks and homes.A nation's innocence shattered.A wake up call...have we gone back to sleep?Blessings&Love~Sharon in Oregon

Nana Trish is Living the Dream said...

Brenda, thank the Lord your husband was okay. You must have been so concerned for him flying right at that time. I was at work and it was such a shock. It reminded me of the feeling I had when President Kennedy was shot. It was so surreal and I knew things would be different after that...and they were. We'll never forget.

Kari (GrannySkywalker) said...

Wow. Your post brought back memories for me, too. My husband was in Australia on 9/11. He's a reservist with the Air Force and was there with a crew of Navy Seals practicing drop-offs, etc. He and I were actually talking on the phone as the first plane hit. He knew right away what it was. I refused to see it. I thought it was an accident and figured some air traffic controller was in seriously hot water (yeah, pretty dumb, huh?). Of course, later on, once we all knew what was really going on, the whole nightmare started to hit home. On a personal level, I was terrified because I knew what it meant for my family. My oldest son had just joined the AF active duty side (he'd been a reservist for 2 years prior). He and my husband were both in Special Operations units. My husband was stuck in Australia, but got a call through to me and asked me to call his unit at the base and make sure they knew to add his name to a list of volunteers he felt sure they would be making for troops to go overseas to deliver America's answer to these horrible attacks. I don't even remember how long it took my husband to get home from Aus. All aircraft, including military aircraft not patrolling for security, were grounded. He did make it back and on October 10th, less than a month after 9/11, both he and my son deployed to parts unknown - we just knew it was somewhere in the middle east - for an unknown period of time. They were in a communication blackout for something like 7 weeks after they left. I didn't know where they were or how they were or what they were doing. The only thing that kept me sane was knowing they were deployed together. I knew they would look out for one another as best they could and they did.

Oh geez. Look how I've rambled. Sorry about that. This is a subject very close to my heart, as it obviously is to yours. Once I get started, I can't seem to shut up about it. :) Sorry.

I actually meant to just say how much your story touched me. I was choked up reading it and I appreciate your sharing it. I found your blog via Vee @ A Haven for Vee, by the way.

I'll shut up now. lol