Sunday, September 11, 2011


Where was I ten years ago on September 11? I was at work, designing a cover for a romance book. I don't remember the title of the book or the subject matter, I only remember setting it aside because I couldn't possibly focus on a romance book knowing what was happening in my country. I'm sure I would have had the same reaction no matter the project—it just happened to be a romance book on my schedule that day. I'm guessing all of my coworkers set their work aside as well.

Unaware of what was happening, I took a break from my work and walked down the long hall to the rest room, and as I opened the door, Mary from marketing said she'd heard an airplane had hit the World Trade Center. I envisioned a Cessna losing its way and smacking into the side of one of the towers, and I shrugged. As soon as I got back to my desk, though, I learned this was no two-seater plane.

2001 was a tough year financially, and we had made some cost cuts at work, and cable for the large conference-room TVs was one of the sacrifices. So, we all tuned our radios to news coverage and stood in our office with our hearts in our throats. Husband joined me in my office, with a couple of other people, and we listened to Peter Jennings and Aaron Brown describe unbelievable events.

When we lived in New Jersey, going into the city and going to the top of the World Trade towers was an inexpensive activity, and we did that from time to time. I had a general understanding of the surroundings, and I had those city blocks in my head as reports came in, but I still could not fathom the vastness of destruction. When Brown reported the towers were falling, I pictured them toppling like a downed tree and was horrified.

Aaron, a young guy who worked a few doors down from me, stood just outside my office door and said, "God forgive us for what we're about to do to whoever is responsible for this." At that moment, I wasn't thinking about what we might do in retaliation, not even knowing who was responsible, and I was a little irritated he would choose that one thing to focus on. But in retrospect, his focus was telling.

During our usual lunch hour, Husband and I drove home to watch televised coverage, and we saw what Brown meant when he described the towers falling—a sight that is still unbelievable—and when we went back to work, Husband called a company-wide prayer meeting that was a very solemn event. If you aren't aware—he owns a Christian publishing company, so a prayer meeting was appropriate.

I don't remember if schools were let out early or not, but I do remember driving to the middle school and then the high school to get the girls, and all the teachers were lined up on the sidewalks, which was unusual, and the girls climbed into the car—their teachers had told them what happened, and I think they had wheeled in TVs to each classroom. I had control over so little that day, and I thought all I wanted was to have my children at home. That was the one thing I could control. So, we went home and shut the garage door and sat in the safety of our living room and tried to understand what had happened and why. To this day, I don't understand the mind that plans such an attack and then follows through, emboldened by a sense of righteousness.

New York City and the Pentagon are far away from Small Town, but Flight 93 would have flown directly overhead. As it arced from Cleveland and headed back toward Washington, its path took it over our county before passengers took it down in Pennsylvania. Regardless of geography, though, that day in September made the United States seem very small with every target seeming close to home.

1 comment:

dive said...

Thank you for sharing, Robyn. Beautifully written.

When a friend called me at work to say a plane had hit one of the twin towers I thought the same thing as you: some nutjob in a teeny tiny little plane; maybe a minor news item that evening. But he called again a few minutes later to say it was an airliner and the horror of it shook me rigid. When he called back to say a second plane had hit the other tower, that was the moment it all changed.
Some things are just too big to comprehend, even after all this time.