It was a day that few of us will forget. I’m sure you remember where and what you were doing that terrible day. I was in my sister’s guest room in Nashville, Tennessee and watched in horror as the second flight flew into the World Trade Center. And then, glued to the TV, I watched it again and again and again as the news replayed it, as the towers collapsed, and the news of the other flights unfolded.
At the time, I lived in central Australia, but was on a round-the-world trip. Hubby had stayed in Australia and we planned to meet up later in China. Hubby happened to be up late at night and he saw news starting to pop up on the Internet. He was glued to the Internet and live TV on the Australian networks. He also saw the second plane go in. He was half-way around the world, in the middle of the Outback and saw the events unfold live. He was horrified watching the people — the collapse of the towers — and it was hard to wrap his head around the fact that this was really happening.
So while Hubby was in Australia, I had traveled around the US. I drove from Tennessee up to visit my ailing Mom and out to see my in-laws. I then returned to Nashville to help my sister out — as she was pregnant and due with her third child. I had just returned from my (as it turned out last) visit with my Mom and Dad and was helping my sister for a few more days (she had the baby by that point) before continuing on my journey. I was scheduled to fly to London and on to Budapest to visit some Hungarian friends on September 12th. Obviously, my flight that next day was canceled, but I managed to make one of the first flights out of the country on the 13th. The flight from Chicago to London was strangely quiet and subdued.
Heathrow airport in London was crazy. Police (or military? I don’t really remember) were heavily patrolling the ticketing area and they carried their guns at their side. No one was allowed to check in their luggage or go to the gates until right before their flights, so I sat on my luggage against a wall for hours and hours (maybe 10-12 hours?) with massive crowds of people. It was surreal and quite overwhelming. Security and screening were very, very tight. I finally made it to Budapest and spent time in Szekesfehervar with my friends (and down in Mako, Hungary where I had taught in a high school/gymnaszium for a couple of years with the Peace Corps).
Meanwhile, the place where Hubby worked pretty much canceled all vacation flights, but because we (Hubby and I) were meeting for a 3-week trip through China (and he had most of the information and tickets) and because I was already en-route he managed to get permission to meet me in Beijing.
The day I arrived back to our home in Australia after that long trip, my Dad and sister called with the sad news that my Mom had died October 11th.
I didn’t personally know anyone who died on September 11th, but my heart bleeds for those families and their terrible loss. I saw my loss coming; I knew the end was coming for my Mom, but I just can’t imagine the impact a terrible event like this would have on all those families.
Where were you on September 11th? I’d love to hear your story.
Do you really remember what you were doing on September 11th?
As you think about and recall your own memories, you might be interested to read this Scientific American Magazine article on “How Accurate Are Memories of 9/11?” It talks about the accuracy of the details we think we remember.
These memories, a study found, erode over time. The article talks about how these not-so-accurate memories have less to do with memory and more to do with how we see ourselves as part of a community and a part of history. Those details are links between our own history and History.
Here’s a related post that talks about that “Flash Bulb” memory, Do You Really Remember Where you Were on September 11th or Manhattan Memory Project: How 9/11 Changed Our Brain. I found these articles all intriguing to read.