Where were you when the world stopped turning?

I awoke on a clear day with a clear head - in fact, it was the clearest my head had felt in months.  I had just made a major path change in my life, changing my college major and I felt like it was the first day of the rest of my life.

I still lived at my parents house. I came downstairs and showered, ate breakfast and still had some time to kill before I needed to get over to campus.  I was sitting at the bottom of the stairs and my mom said "so do you just feel like a giant weight has been lifted off of you?" referring to the big decision I had reached and discussed with her and my dad the night before.  I told her I did and it felt really good.  I then said that I had some time to kill and knew that Cosby Show reruns were on one of the local channels, so I thought I'd watch one.  I wasn't prepared for what I'd see when I turned on the TV.  If I had known that I was about to truly become an adult in the next five minutes, I might have held off a little longer.

Every single channel was covering this disaster in New York.  At first it seemed like just a horrible accident.  And then the second plane hit.  And then they were talking to a spokesman at the Pentagon and he said "I don't want to alarm anyone, but the building here just shook."  I couldn't take anymore and decided to go to school.  My mom hugged me and said she loved me as if it was the last time she'd ever see me.  And I don't blame her. The dialogue replaying over and over in my head at that moment was "This is scary shit."

On the radio as I was driving, they had people calling in saying they knew someone in New York or Washington and the DJs were just scrambling to keep up with coverage.  One of them at one point said something that scared me even more "What if this is all just some distraction before something bigger happens?"  Bigger?  Like nuclear bombs?  Not much else could have been bigger than this.

Somehow I parked my car and stumbled to campus.  I was going to get a signature from my new adviser for a couple of classes of hers I was transferring into.  A friend of mine was working in the music library where I had to pass through to get to the communications department.  She said hi and was smiling and happy - I realized she still didn't know that the world around us was crumbling.  And for some reason, I didn't want to be the one to tell her.  Let her enjoy her last free moments of happy innocence.  She'd know soon enough.

I got my needed signatures and the middle part of the day is a blur.  Each of my professors gave us the option to have real class or to just sit and talk - and in most classes we sat and talked.  We talked about what we knew, we talked about our fears.  My campus was close to the airport and when the planes were grounded, it got eerily quiet.

My last class of the day was women's choir and we decided to still hold a true rehearsal, which at that point in the day was a welcome break.  We ended by singing "Dona Nobis Pacem" which translates to "Grant us Peace."  We gave each other hugs.

I drove home and got a phone call from Stef - the president of our sorority wanted our first job as Sisters Chairs to be calling each of the sisters and making sure they were ok.  We both agreed that neither one of us wanted to spend the entire night on the phone, so perhaps a mass email would be better, letting them know they could call either of us at any time if they needed to talk.

While waiting for my mom to cook dinner, I watched some more coverage on TV.  All of the members of Congress stood on the steps of the Capital building and sang "God Bless America."  That is an image I haven't ever been able to forget.  My dad came home and started saying things like "well we're probably going oversees and bombing the hell out of some middle Eastern country."  He wasn't trying to be crass, everyone was dealing with the day's events in their own way.

I had a faith formation committee meeting at church and I didn't want to go, in fact, I assumed it would be cancelled, but I was wrong.  I decided to give it a try, figuring maybe it would be short or something.  I ended up leaving after an hour, aside from a quick prayer at the beginning, everyone was ignoring the fact that something significant had happened in our country that day.

I headed home and it was a good thing I did.  Nate called shortly after I was home saying he was leaving his evening job early, he just couldn't take anymore, and could he come over for a bit?  I said of course and he was there within 15 minutes.  We continued watching the coverage on TV and he was unusually subdued.  I always looked to him for comfort but in this situation, even he was freaked out.  He told me he was scared about if the country went to war, he had friends who would definitely have to go and what if they re-instated the draft?  I became angry and upset and for the first time that day, which is surprising really, broke down into tears.  I even uttered the words "where is God in all of this?" because, well, it was sure hard to find Him at that moment.  Nate calmed me down and reminded me that God was taking care of the victims and their families.  And that helped even though I wondered how anything would ever be "ok" ever again.We reluctantly parted for the night and I headed to bed where I lay awake a long time.

Ten years later and I am amazed at all the details I remember about that day. And I know I won't ever forget.

One more recap post coming tomorrow about the days after 9/11 and moving on

No comments: