Saturday, September 10, 2011

My 9/11

I was fast asleep in my bed on Dakota Road in Garden Grove.
My hours at Disneyland often began in the afternoon and went well into the night.  So, by the time I returned home, it would take me until 1 or 2 am to wind down and finally make my way to bed.

It was the first day of my vacation.  In two days, I would board a plane with my friend Jan Gohlitz and fly to Tokyo, Japan to visit my friend and sister-in-the-Lord, Catherine Ramirez.

Early (for me) on a Tuesday morning, my cell phone rang.  On the other end was my mom's urgent and very serious voice: "Kori, turn on the t.v.  Planes have flown into the World Trade Towers."  Still half asleep and quite groggy, I had trouble discerning... understanding... grasping what she was saying.  But the tone and panic in her voice told me this was a very worrisome incident.  My mom was driving her car when she called me...on her way to work at Children's Hospital in San Diego.  I stumbled my way to my small 13 inch t.v. and flipped it on.
What was wrong with my television?  There were two images being projected.  I tried to read quickly the heading at the bottom of the screen.  The Pentagon had been hit.  What?  I thought it was the Twin Towers.  On the left side of the screen I could clearly see the Twin Towers immersed in smoke like torches, but the right side showed only smoke.  Was that the Pentagon?  "Mom," I said, "I think the Pentagon's been hit."  The shock in her voice was stunning.  "What?"  "Mom, what's going on?"  We both new we were under attack, but by who? and why?  And what would be hit next?

I called Tony, a precious friend of mine, and told him to turn on his t.v.  And while I was on the phone with him, I saw the towers fall.  Breathless and shocked...even from my long-distance location.

When I was 13, my junior high school took a trip to Washington, D.C., and New York.  We were asked if we'd like to visit the World Trade Towers.  Only about ten of us wanted to go.  Since I like to make the most of every opportunity, I, of course, wanted to climb to the top levels of the tallest buildings in New York.  I stood up there more than 100 stories straight up, stepped down into a window and felt the building sway.  Whoa.  Never did I imagine what would occur nearly 15 years later.
I can't tell you what I wore that day...because I didn't care what I wore.  I had to peel myself away from the television.  For days, I and all of America were glued to that screen as the images played over and over and over and over again. As our President, George W. Bush, put into that role "for such a time as this" responded appropriately and accordingly and we all stood in solidarity to make right this terrible wrong committed against the beautiful USA.

An inspiring moment to me during those days was when George Bush stood atop the rubble at Ground Zero and when handed a bullhorn, attempted to encourage the people within earshot.  A man shouted, "I can't hear you!"  President Bush looked squarely in the direction of the man's voice and shouted into the bullhorn, "Well, I can hear you.  The whole world hears you!  And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear from all of us soon."  Cheers erupted and my heart swelled.  A decisive leader at a time when we desperately needed it.

I had a plane ticket to Japan which I seriously considered changing to New York so I could do something to help...after all I didn't have to work and suddenly had a whole lot of free time on my hands.

Our September 13th flight to Japan finally left on September 17th.  As I passed a news stand in a train station in Tokyo, I saw a magazine peppered with pictures of 9/11.

And so I picked up newspapers, Time magazines, Newsweek and the like during that week.  And I picked up the paper when Saddam Hussein was captured and again this May when Osama bin Laden was killed.  I popped VHS tapes in my VCR during the days of 9/11 because I knew one day I would want to have these things to show my children.  And here I am today teaching my children and sharing with them the seriousness of that day.

behind us is an FDNY first responder fire truck from Queens.
The boys and I visited the Nixon Presidential Library Monday to commemorate the lives of those lost on September 11, 2001.

Life in this country changed that day.  If you doubt it, you only have to think of the security checks we go through on a regular basis when we visit this place or that.

In disbelief of what we were experiencing as a nation and only having the stories of Pearl Harbor to refer to, I asked my mom that Tuesday, "Mom, is this worse than Pearl Harbor?" because to me it seemed awful.  "Yes," she said.  And silently in my heart, I said, "oh."

Praying for our soldiers abroad and our heroes here at home and the families still feeling the painful loss of this day 10 years ago.
God bless America.

p.s. I know mine is only one of millions of stories.  Please take some time to leave your 9/11 story in the comment section of this blog.

1 comment:

  1. I lived in Pensacola. We didn't have cable at home, nor tvs at the office I worked in, so I gathered my news from the internet. In the previous weeks, there had been school shootings at High Schools in the East County of San Diego.

    I walked into my office and my boss asked me if I heard what happened. I remember responding with, "What High School in San Diego THIS time?" Paul answered, "No, Tob... not that. A plane flew into one of the towers at the World Trade Center." WHAT?!?!? They must be mistaken. Why would a plane fly into a building? Did the pilot have a heart attack or something?

    We logged into the internet and attempted to gather as much information as we could, but the sites were clogged and we had trouble getting any news. We opened for business (it was a telephone company), but the phones didn't ring much that day.

    The rest of the day was a blur. We'd get bits of information from here or there. I remember we heard that there was still a plane that was unaccounted for. We stopped everything and prayed - as a company - for the people on that plane. Shortly thereafter, we heard about Flight 93 crashing in Pennsylvania. I remember my sister, Kori, calling me at some point and telling me that the tower collapsed. I had heard that already and responded, "I know. The top fell off (like the Chrysler Building in Armageddon, I thought to myself)." "No... it's GONE." WHAT?!?!? I remember calling my Momma on my way home from work and asking her, "What is wrong with the people on this Earth?"

    I couldn't get ahold of my Richard all day. It wasn't until after 6pm that he came home, having had an understandably busy day at the base securing computer systems. We went to dinner at TGI Friday's and, finally, I saw my first images of that horrifying day.

    I know the gravity of what happened that day. I know the confusion, the fear, the loss, the heroism. I love the patriotism, the outpouring of love for neighbors and strangers, the resolve and determination in America that followed. Although I saw the collapsed Pentagon wall with the massive American flag next to it in person a week following the attacks and have been to Ground Zero, I still find myself in disbelief that this happened. Maybe if I had seen it play out live that day as almost everyone else in America did...

    Every September since my boys were born, I have thought to myself, "How am I going to talk to them about this?" Finally, this year, I feel they are ready to understand what happened on a day that those of us that were living at the time will never forget. Finally, I'm seeing images and video that most people saw live ten years ago. Finally, I'm hearing the fear in the newscasters' voices as they tried to keep themselves together and help the rest of us grasp the events of that day. Finally, I'm seeing President George W. Bush's reaction, thought processes, and leadership that emerged when his presidency immediately turned into a "War Time" Presidency.

    Continued prayers go to the families of those who were taken from this earth due to cowardly attacks, for the first responders, as well as to the military men and women around the world fighting for our freedom and safety.

    God Bless America! We sure love her!!!!!