I’m sure every blogger in America is writing about September 11, 2001, this week. Can you stand to read another one?
We all have stories about that fateful day. It is on the scale of the attack on Pearl Harbor for my parents’ generation. Here is my story.
The alarm radio went off at the usual 7 a.m. time, but this time the DJs were talking about a plane crashing into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. We just moved to Vandenberg Air Force Base on the Central Coast of California in late July. I jumped out of bed and turned on the television in our room. Just then, the second airline jet crashed into the second tower. The Good Chaplain uttered an expletive.
“We’re under attack,” he said. And with that visual and those words, I knew our world was about to change forever.
Lots of questions arose about our plans for the day. Our twin daughters were getting ready for school. Should they go? I also was to go to their school to speak to the journalism class about freelance writing. Would classes still be held? We knew the Good Chaplain would be in demand.
We called the school. Classes were still being held, but it was up to the parents if they wanted their children to attend or not. Part of our quandary was whether the girls could get back onto the base after school. I was driving them to school, but they would ride the bus home. Would the base be shut down — no one allowed on or off — by the time school let out?
The Good Chaplain called the base command post and asked the question.
“I know we will be going to Delta. Will my daughters be able to get back on base this afternoon, after school?” he asked. Force Protection Condition Delta is the highest level the base could go, which basically means a terrorist attack has occurred or is imminent. A terrorist attack definitely happened on U.S. soil that day.
“Sir, we are not in Delta,” the person on the other end of the phone line said.
“I know that, but we will be soon. I just need to know if my kids will be able to get back on base after school.”
“Sir, we don’t know that we will be going to Delta.”
The Good Chaplain sighed. “Okay, sure. Will my kids be allowed back on base after school. We’re trying to decide if we should send them or not.”
“Sir, the buses will be allowed back on base,” the command post person said.
“Thank you. That’s all I needed to know,” said the Good Chaplain.
We did end up going to school, and the girls could get back on the base, even though the base did go to Delta. I gave my talk, but we mostly talked about what was happening in New York and the Pentagon by that time. As a journalist, I really wanted to be in the thick of the story. But as a mom, wife, and military spouse, I was scared of what was to come and saddened that this happened in my country.
Strangely, the events on 9/11 did not hit me until another plane crash in Queens in November 2001. Then, I remember crying and going into the bedroom to tell the Good Chaplain.
“Another plane crashed in New York City,” I said.
“Was it another terrorist attack?” he asked.
“I don’t think so, but the plane crashed into some buildings,” I said.
Then I sat down and cried. I cried for the 260 people on board and the five on the ground who died. And, I finally cried for all those that died on 9/11 on the most devastating day of my life.
Until next time,