Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering September 11

Originally 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 he 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.


DarcyLee said...

Brenda-I'll never forget that day either. I remember my brother-in-law called us that morning and said, "Turn your T.V. on! We've been hit!" That was in the days when I was homeschooling our 4 children and rarely had the television on during the day so we didn't know anything until that call. Our lives haven't been the same since.

freetobeme - Anita said...

Well written. I have my own memories of that day but I didn't have anyone flying or in New York City or Washington D C. But I was still affected by it as everyone was.

becka said...

My daughter lives off of eleven mile road, so we often visit in that area. Her husband works right next to the zoo.

We had a chapel speaker at our school yesterday who is a commercial pilot. He flies part time and is also a pastor of a church in New England, and the father of eight children. He was scheduled to fly one of the planes that flew into the Twin Towers, but another pilot with more seniority bumped him from the flight the night before. It was quite sobering to hear about the providence of God in his life.
It is very reassuring to know that the Lord is still in control even when the world seems to be spinning out of control.

Anonymous said...

We used to live in Sterling Heights so I know the area where you were living. How long were you there? My husband is retired from Chrysler and we moved around a lot, too. I am so glad to be back home in Indiana! I don't think there are many Americans who will ever forget 9/11. We need to remember to pray for those brave souls who are now suffering the after effects of working to rescue and clear the debris from the site.

Friend Debra