On September 11, 2001, I was living in "on campus" off campus housing in north Oklahoma City. I was just a few weeks in to my junior year of Bible college. I shared the apartment with 4 other girls, all of whom had earlier classes than me that day and were already at school. We didn't have a tv and this was way before smart phones and news at the touch of a button. It was chapel day and I had one class before that and I was getting ready. I had on a navy blue polka dot skirt I borrowed from my room mate. I had just finished curling my long blonde hair. I was excited about my outfit that day.
My mom called and I must have been half listening, standing in the living room, as I heard her say something about hijacking and terrorist and a plane flying into a building. I said, "Mom what are you talking about? A movie? Is this a movie you watched?" She said "No! It's REAL and it's happening right now! You need to turn on the news!"
I got off the phone with her literally thinking it was the beginning of the end of the world and here I was all alone. I needed to be with people. I threw the rest of my clothes on and rushed to school. I expected to find groups gathered talking about what was going on or praying around the flag pole or something. So it was weird when I got there and everyone was just going about their business. I wondered had they not heard yet? I got there during a class hour so my classmates may remember it differently. I was now early for my class so I sat in the bookstore with Mrs. Y. It was just her and I for what seems like a long time. We watched the footage on a small tv that had been wheeled out and tuned in to the news. We watched the smoke billow from the building. We watched the 2nd plane hit. We watched the towers fall. The end of the world had not come. The end of the world as we knew it had.
I have no idea what class I had that day. I remember leaving the book store to go to it but that's all. Then we had chapel. Somewhere in between mom called and told me that my sister was stranded at Disney Land. It was the first time she and my cousin had went on a trip as adults without any other family and they were supposed to fly home that day. All flights were grounded and everything at the park was closed down. Mom called to give me the phone number to reach her room (I'm thinking she either didn't have a cell phone yet or there were roaming charges if you used it in another state....remember those days?) I didn't have a pen and the music was beginning to play to signify the beginning of the service. I borrowed a pen from a friend - I walked up to his group and said “Do you have a pen? Give me a pen.” He looked surprised. I said “Give me a pen!” rather impatiently. He looked perplexed but complied. It's weird the things we remember. I called and talked to her for a minute as I heard the services begin in the distance. She said they were letting them stay another night but nothing was open so they were trying to figure out where to eat and had no idea how they were going to get home. I thought about her being on plane and how the people whose families perished on those flights must have felt to find out they wouldn't be coming home and how crushed my world would be to lose her. It would be two years still before I would feel the nightmarish pain of losing a sibling.
I remember leaving school and trying to get gas and the lines being around the block and the prices going up and up and the uncertainty in the faces of people. It was a weekday so I'm sure I had to work but I don't remember it. I remember that they did put a tv in the Community Room at school and that night instead of going back to the apartment I went back there and I sat with several other people watching the news coverage. Seeing the unreal images of what had unfolded earlier in the day and the wreckage that now remained. In the days to follow I remember driving down Northwest Expressway and a 20 story bank building with all glass windows had the biggest American flag I had ever seen hanging in the atrium from ceiling almost to the ground floor. It was breathtaking and I cried when I saw it. There were so many flags everywhere then as people pulled together to show the love and support of our nation.
It's so strange that there are people alive now who have no idea what the world, our world, America, was like before that day. Just like when my mom called me, I thought these things happen in movies, on tv, and in other countries. Not in America. But now they do. There is evil in the world and people who seek to destroy us. And just like that day, brave men and women stand up in the midst of it. Not long after that, people went to war for this country. My friend that I borrowed the pen from joined the Marines. I almost crashed my car the day his mom told me. I said “doesn't he know we're at war?!”. He went anyway.
Today we remember. We remember the details of where we were when our world changed. We remember the people who lost their lives after getting up on a normal day thinking it would go as it always did. We remember the heroes who in the face of almost certain death kept going back to help one more person. We remember the faces of sorrow. We remember the feelings of loss. We remember coming together to share the pain. We remember the pride of a nation whose people came together to help each other in desperate hours, days, weeks and months to come. We remember and we have hope.