For as long as I can remember, the first thing that I do when I open my eyes in the morning is turn on one of the news channels. Usually, I turn on CNN just to see if anything has happened during the night, and at 7:00 a.m. I flip over to Good Morning America. September 11, 2001 was just like any other day. I was getting ready for work, the television on in the background as I showered, dried my hair, put on my makeup and grabbed a yogurt for breakfast. I was supposed to be at my office at 8:00 a.m., and it was only a 2 minute drive. At some point, I realized that the news “noise” had taken a different shift, and something was happening. I recall sitting down on the couch, and watching the screen, thinking that there had been a terrible accident in New York.
I picked up the telephone and called my co-worker (who was my closest friend) and I remember saying to her “are you watching this?” She was, and for a brief moment we quietly spoke about the magnitude of this “accident.” Seconds later, linked by telephone line from our houses a few blocks from each other, we watched together as the second plane flew into the tower, and we knew. The world as we knew it changed at that moment, as two friends in a small Midwestern town hung on to our telephones for dear life and cried together.
We did not have “normal” jobs. My friend is the co-pastor of a Presbyterian Church. My official title was Administrative Assistant which I always said meant “church hostess.” I did everything from the church finances, newsletter and bulletins, to running interference for the ministers. There were also times when I was cleaning out a refrigerator, arranging rides, or simply talking to someone from the congregation who was having a bad day. We both knew that this was going to be a bad day for everyone. It was also my friend’s birthday, a day we were going to celebrate…a birthday soon forgotten.
We watched in horror for quite a while. Neither one of us willing to hang up the phone. Her husband, our other minister was in Chicago for the day, and she was afraid for him. My son had just started college 3 hours away, and I wanted him home. After about an hour we decided we had to do something for the people of our church. I grabbed a television set, and we met at the church. We planned an evening prayer service very quickly. I called all the members of our church, and we put an announcement on the radio for the community. All through the day people stopped into my office. They didn’t want to be alone. They just wanted to be in the church. They wanted to be doing something, even if it was simply folding the programs for the special service, or bring us donuts or lunch to get us through the day.
It has been nine years, and I still remember every detail. I was living in a small town in the middle of nowhere, and I knew that my town would never be a “target” but I was still afraid. I knew that life had changed forever. I knew my children would never feel completely safe again, and that the young daughter of my minister friends would not remember a time before 9/11. We as friends had been through something together that would link us forever.
We must never forget.