Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

11 Sep

I awoke from a dead sleep to the phone ringing just before 6am PST. I scrambled to grab the phone wondering who would call this early. It was Mike. His first words were, “The world is coming to an end.” Groggy and confused I asked him what he was talking about. He said, “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center. Turn on the news.” I switched the TV on, unsure of what I was really seeing. I asked him if it was a private plane. He said he didn’t know. I listened to the reporters talking, everyone just as confused as I was…not understanding what happened and believing this was a tragic accident.

I was glued to the TV, Mike still on the phone, when the second plane hit the second tower. “Oh my God, Mike. Oh my God, another plane just hit the other tower.” He said I must be confused that I was probably watching a replay. And I said, “No Mike. There are two gaping holes…one in each tower. What the fuck is happening?” Tears came. Fear came. I told Mike I needed to call a friend who worked for the airlines. My friend told me that reports were coming in that two more planes were hijacked and weren’t responding to radio calls.

I was so confused. I couldn’t understand or make sense of who would do this or why. I called Mike back and told him what I knew. He had no access to a TV so I was telling him what I was seeing. I remember the shock when I told him people were jumping from the building. And his silence as I cried. I remember watching the first tower collapsed. I remember thinking that it just wasn’t possible. I remember him thinking it wasn’t possible, asking me if I was sure it had collapsed. I remember watching the second tower fall. The tears just kept coming. I didn’t know what to do. Are you supposed to go to work when something like this happens? Living in Los Angeles, I knew it wasn’t happening here, but it was happening to all of us…as a nation.

I called my boss who said he thought at a time like this it was best for us to join together and that if people wanted to stay home they could but that he thought it would be a good idea for us to come in, huddle around the TV and order lunch for everyone. So that’s what we did. We sat and watched and cried and called loved ones. We waited for answers. We heard from people who were supposed to be on one of the flights but missed it for some reason or the other.

Living right next to LAX in the small town of El Segundo, I became used to the sound of the planes. Really loud during the day and a low hum at night. I became used to seeing them in skies on my daily commute so when they grounded all the flights an eery silence fell over our city. It was almost as if you could hear a pin drop. The silence scared me…it was so foreign. I remember when I saw the first airplane in the sky a few days later it felt odd to see it there. Like it didn’t belong and somehow was threatening.

A few days later I headed to Las Vegas for a friend’s birthday. On Sunday I decided to catch a flight home. It was a Southwest flight and I remember being terrified. There were four passengers on my entire flight. Do you know how weird a plane looks with four people on it? We all sat together. We all talked about what had happened. What we would do if it happened on a flight we were on. We were no longer strangers engrossed in our own daily lives but people who shared a common bond of sadness, fear and love for our country.

What happened in NYC affected us as a nation. The motto “United We Stand” became something we truly were. We were united…gone were the political party lines for a short time…it was a time when we remembered that we were fellow Americans despite our differences in beliefs and we truly came together in an attempt to heal a nation that had been shaken. To offer assistance by any means we could offer it. People came from all over the US to help with search and rescue. We donated blood, we opened our homes, we sent care packages, we enlisted in the armed forces, we became friends with strangers, we cried for people we didn’t know.

For all of the fallen heroes on that day, I remember. For all of the service men and women fighting for our freedom, I remember. For all of the people who lost their lives, I remember. For all of the men and women who lost their spouses, I remember. For all of the children who will only know the legacy their parent left, I remember. I will never forget the outpouring of love in the days that followed the attacks.


2 Responses to “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?”

  1. Barbara Metcalfe September 11, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    I have missed seeing you in my inbox! You are a very good writer, you should do it more!
    Much love, Mama Barb

    • Janice September 11, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

      Thanks Mama Barb. I took a really long break. I’m hoping to write more but just have to find the inspiration. Feel like I’ve had writer’s block lately!

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