Memory of 9/11 still has strong effect

With all the media coverage of the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, I have been thinking back to that fateful day.

I was on my way to work in Little Rock when the radio announcer said that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center Towers. I thought to myself, “What a terrible joke.” I put in a CD instead and sang all the way to my exit, blissfully unaware.

When I walked into the lobby, I noticed all of my co-workers standing in front of the television. My first thought was how funny it was going to be when the boss walked in and they all tried to scramble to look busy. It finally occurred to me that something big must have happened.

I remember hearing that little voice in the back of my head saying, “The Trade Center! It wasn’t a joke.” With each step closer to the television, the level of anxiety in my chest steadily rose.

It certainly was no joke. That Tuesday morning at 9:03 a.m., I watched in horror as a second plane flew into the South Tower. I could no longer hope that the first plane was a terrible accident.

I remember feeling an uncanny sense of urgency. As though everything that I did or said that day was of the utmost importance, which was ridiculous because I could not speak intelligently nor do anything productively. I was very indecisive. My boss gave each of us the option to go to the gas station next door to fill up on gas. I remember sitting in my car looking at the gas gauge and debating for what must have been several minutes before finally putting the key into the ignition. It took me another few minutes to put the car into reverse, and so forth.

When I finally got to the gas station, my cell phone rang, startling me more than it should have. It was my boss telling me to go home. Gov. Mike Huckabee was in the process of evacuating all of downtown Little Rock as a precaution.

I had mixed feelings about leaving. On one hand, I could not wait to get home and see my family, or to just fall apart in private if I wanted. On the other hand, I didn’t want to drive anywhere. I was having a difficult time focusing, and knew I shouldn’t be driving 70 mph on a busy interstate for the 45-mile commute to my house.

I finally made it home. My house was empty, as the rest of my family was still at work or school. I remember alternating between standing in front of the television in the living room and sitting outside looking up in the sky. I suppose I was watching for airplanes, an activity I hadn’t done much of since I was five years old.

I remember feeling a little like a five-year-old that day. I felt helpless and scared. I wanted my mommy, but she had to work.

As my family started to arrive home, we just embraced each other. We tried to talk about the meaning of the day’s events, but we were baffled. We attempted to lighten the mood and pulled out a board game. We quickly decided this was useless. We couldn’t keep up with whose turn it was, much less try to keep score.

We did what most American families did that evening. We watched the news coverage. When it was time for bed, we were sure to say “Goodnight,” and “I love you.”

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