“Memories have the power to both remind, refocus, and renew us.” Chris Hogan
Twelve years ago I woke to a gorgeous, early fall day. I got in my old Ford Tempo–the one I bought my senior year in high school–and set out to my new job in Moscow, Idaho. I was taking a break from college, re-evaluating my life, and it was already clear to me that being a receptionist in a small law firm was not going to be a long term option for me. Only a few months in, and I was bored.
I flicked on the radio hoping some upbeat tunes would get me revved for another mind numbing day. Instead, I got the news. It took me a few moments to realize this wasn’t the usual ninety second update I listened to each morning between witty D.J. chatter and my favorite country songs. This was breaking news. The announcer kept speaking these incomprehensible sentences about towers being hit by planes. I’d lived on the west side of the country my whole life, much of it out in the sticks on a beef ranch. I had no idea what the World Trade Center was, but my ears perked up when he said the Pentagon had also been struck by a plane. Not long after that, another plane skidded to a stop in a field. What in the world was going on? It was just to crazy to latch onto.
As I searched for an elusive downtown parking spot, I remembered my grandparents were somewhere on the East Coast. Grandma had always dreamed of experiencing the famous fall colors, so they had driven their motor home across the country. I was pretty sure the last I had heard, they were headed for New York.
Cold panic filled my stomach and my chest constricted with fear as I wiggled the Tempo into a barely big enough space. That was the year I learned to parallel park. I didn’t want to be crying when I entered the old house turned legal office, but I’d been holding the tears back while behind the wheel. They were sliding freely from my eyes as I turned the front doorknob.
“Your mom is on the phone,” one of the legal secretaries said when she saw me.
I rattled off a quick explanation for her calling me at work, as if these people had no idea what was going on thousands of miles away. When I picked up the phone, Mom told me my grandparents were safe–not even near New York City. You see, when you have never been anywhere, you kind of just think the state of New York is New York City.
The morning passed in a blur. I’m sure I copied, filed, transcribed dictation, and took calls. It all seemed so meaningless. Finally my lunch break rolled around, and I retreated to the empty conference room at the back of the house–formerly a dining room.
The television was on, and I forced myself to nibble at the food I’d packed at home. All I wanted at that moment was to hide away with my husband in our cozy apartment. Things would be all right there. Images of air hazy with dust and battered people crossed the screen. At one point the camera landed on a man crawling on his hands and knees. His face was grimy, his suit a mess, but I could tell that hours before he’d been polished up for a day at the office. He crawled beside a car, a small bit of shelter a midst the chaos and threw up. I got up and switched off the TV. I couldn’t take anymore.
A lot has changed in my life in the last twelve years. I went back to school full-time less than a year after the events on September 11. I had gained a lot of perspective that day. I finished my degree. Brett and I bought a house and had a daughter. We have lived purposely each and every day, working toward our dreams. Today I’m blessed to be home doing my dream job: raising our daughter and making a living as a writer.
I’m not the only one who has moved forward. This country pulled together in a way I had never witnessed after 9/11, and has several times since. We have fought wars and slogged our way through tough economic times, but despite life’s challenges America has still continued to thrive. One nation, under God truly is indivisible, and there will be justice for all.