…I was getting ready to head to a college newspaper meeting. A couple of weeks into the fall semester of my senior year, I was the editor-in-chief of the publication and had plans to meet with the advisor. I was lazily choosing an outfit when I was distracted by our ringing telephone. I grabbed the receiver as my grandmother’s blind and half-deaf best friend yelled, “Dot! A plane crashed into the Sears Tower.” While I wasn’t “Dot” (that’s my grandmother) and a plane hadn’t actually crashed into the Sears Tower, which is in Chicago, I flipped on the news just as a second plane hit the second of the twin towers. It was then I knew that this was no accident.
I quickly threw on some clothes, blobbed make-up on my face, gathered my school books, and headed to the living room. Because I had a series of grand mal seizures the previous April, I still wasn’t allowed to drive and therefore, had to have my mommy drive me to college every day. The 15 minute drive didn’t seem long enough as we listened to the radio in terror. A plane had crashed into the Pentagon as well. My mom wondered aloud if this was the end of the world, and I had my suspicions as well.
We made it to campus, and I looked at my mom, as though I was looking at her for the last time. I told her I loved her and bravely walked into the language arts center at campus. It was strangely silent; in fact, the whole campus, which was normally filled with chatty students and bustling life was still. My world, as I knew it, had frozen.
Jen, the newspaper advisor and communications instructor, greeted me in a panic. “I’m sorry I’m late,” I stammered. “It’s just that planes are…”
“I know! It’s all over the news!” she exclaimed. Normally, cool and composed, I realized she was a nervous wreck as she guided me to the language arts lounge which was crammed with students and staff whose eyes were glued to the television. No one greeted me as I joined the statue brigade.
The scariest part, for me, was seeing the looks on the faces of my professors. These gregarious teachers of higher education, the very definition of intelligence and egotism were quaking with fear. One avowed atheist stopped me in the hall and said, “Amy, will you pray for my friends in New York City? They work in the towers!” I offered to pray with him right there, but that was just too much for him. He started sobbing and walked to his office. I did pray for his friends and they did survive. I don’t know if he thanked God or not, but I hope so. A short while after that, the towers collapsed as screams of “Oh my God!” rang throughout the building.
On that day, so many people approached me and asked me to pray for a friend or family member with them or for them. God gave me a purpose on a sleepy little liberal arts college on that day–I was ministering to the terrified. Little groups of students were huddled around the campus televisions. Those who did talk only murmured in quiet whispers. It was surreal.
After the campus prayer vigil in early afternoon, I called my mom to take me home. I was feeling worn out from comforting everyone else. When I got home, my grandpa’s sister and her husband had joined my grandparents to watch the ongoing coverage of what was now being called a terrorist attack. Details were still choppy. They were all so old; they had seen so much, and yet this was beyond even their realm of experience. It unnerved me most to see the fear in my elderly relatives.
As the days and weeks went out the body count grew higher and the stories of hope and heroism moistened our eyes. Never before had I see the best of Americans in the most dire of circumstances. It was a time when that American flag was flown as a sign of solidarity and craft stores sold out of red, white, and blue everything. Our country came together and it was a beautiful thing, despite the ugliness that inspired it.
Like me, I’m sure you have your own story of where you were, what you were doing, and who you were with when you hear the news seven years ago today. Feel free to share your story, thoughts, prayers, or inspirations about Sept. 11, 2001.