This post has been on my mind all day, but since it's been a very full day, I'm just now getting to sit down and write. Eleven years ago today, the world paused as we watched in horror the terrorists events in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania unfold before our eyes. Today, I have had a lot of time to reflect on that fateful day and how my life was effected.
That beautiful Tuesday morning of 2001 was the final semester of my master's work in piano performance. The day was scheduled to begin at 10:00 with a voice lesson in Dr. Pamela Gaston's studio and would continue until I had my piano lesson late that afternoon. I had gotten myself together, dressed, and had warmed up when I decided to sit down on the sofa to watch a bit of news before leaving for the school. I sat in absolute horror as I listened to Matt Lauer attempt to sort through the confusion of what was happening in the earliest stages of the tragedy.
I knew that this would be a historical event, so I immediately called my mom and told her to make sure that she was watching the news. The rest of the morning is a blur and I somehow pulled myself together and managed to get into my car to head to school. As I drove, I remember seeing several crop dusters beginning to work in this agricultural region and I nearly lost my mind with every sound. I think that's when I finally knew that things were not alright -- and I wasn't either.
As I drove, my cell phone began to ring off the hook. My sister-in-law and sister were trying to reach me. It was Patsy, my brother's wife, who finally got through and asked exactly where I was. Reports were coming in that both bridges into Memphis would be shut down to all traffic later that morning since there was fear that the city might be a terrorist target. If I found myself in Memphis when the bridges were closed, I wouldn't be able to get home....and at that point we didn't know how long it would last.
I turned around and went home. I didn't have the presence of mind to call anyone and cancel my appointments for the day. I thought the world was coming to an end anyway and none of it was going to matter. I tried to think about other things when I got home, but I sat glued to the television. I was frightened of what was going to happen next. I feared for the safety of my friends living in New York as well as those in Los Angeles -- so many were assuming that the entire nation was under attack.
As aircraft were grounded around the nation, I saw the immensity of the situation. Then television stations began to go off the air as a show of respect to those who had been lost. I couldn't believe what was happening.
Later that afternoon I learned that the bridges were not going to be closed and got a phone call from my boss that the church was hosting a special prayer service that evening. I had mixed emotions about going to be perfectly honest. I wanted to be in a place of prayer, but I was not looking forward to being 45 miles from home while the world was in chaos. I made the drive to East Memphis. I sat outside the church on the hood of my car and talked with friends before the service began and was shocked at the silence that was all around. The church normally had lots of air traffic going overhead due to flight paths to the international airport. That afternoon was strangely and eerily silent.
As I sat in the quiet, I began to think about many things. I had to teach children's church on Sunday morning. How was I going to address how God could allow so many people to die who had done nothing to deserve it? How was I going to assure them that in this craziness God was still in control? Was I honestly convinced of that myself? Then I started to think about my upcoming calendar. I was supposed to get on an airplane in just a few weeks and travel to Los Angeles for a performance. Would the airlines be up and running again? Would I have the courage to fly? (I made the flight to LA in early October, but I was completely petrified, reading a large portion of the New Testament with a white-knuckle grip. My return flight wasn't much better since the US had attacked Afghanistan the day before and the airports were on high alert in case of retaliation.)
I got back to a semi-normal routine with the rest of the country in the weeks after 9/11. I had convinced everyone I was fine, but I knew that I wasn't. I had to face this fact when the drama series The West Wing returned to the air. I had been a regular viewer of the show since its beginning and hadn't missed an episode. The show immediately after the hiatus dealt with terrorist attacks as their response to the tragedies. I started watching the episode but couldn't bring myself to watch it because I was so disturbed. Truthfully, I have not watched an episode of The West Wing since that evening. I own the entire series on DVD and have made efforts to watch them from the beginning, but I can't make it because of the knowledge that I will have to face that episode in order to finish the series.
So here I am 11 years after the events of 9/11. I wasn't in New York City on that day. I didn't know anyone personally who was among the victims. Still, I find that I was scarred on that day and don't know that I have ever fully recovered.....or that I ever will.