I Was 24 When It Happened

I remember it like it was yesterday.

I was on my way to school. I was running late (not an uncommon thing), which explained why I was still in my car shortly after 8:00 (Central Time). I was listening to K-LOVE, my favorite Christian music station. Stephen Curtis Chapman was singing. I was wearing a black skirt and a red button-up shirt. My hair was in a clip because I didn't have time to fix it.

I was driving by Henderson State University, right by the fountain, when the DJ broke in the middle of the song and said that there had apparently been a very tragic accident. He proceeded to tell us about one plane flying "by accident" into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. That was it. The music came back on. Although my heart stopped for a second, I remember turning and checking on my baby, Keaton, barely a year old, who was jabbering in his carseat and continuing on to school.

I made it to school, got Keaton loaded into his baby sitter's car, walked in the door of the school and was met by my principal and some other teachers saying that something awful had happened. I remember being almost flippant, saying, "I know. I heard. A plane hit a tower." And then I saw their faces. They then told me that another plane had crashed and the country and the news people were saying that our nation was under attack.

It takes a long time for that kind of thing to register. Although I can remember the exact way I was wearing my hair and the song that was on the radio, I can't remember the rest of the day. Odd that one precise moment is stuck forever in my mind, but the rest of the day is a blur, except for just a few snippets of time.

I remember hearing someone on the radio saying that there would be an immediate rush on gasoline, and all of the teachers leaving one at a time to a gas station owned by a friend to fill up our tanks. I remember hearing on the radio that the government was talking about an immediate draft to go fight the people that did this to us, and immediately making plans for when Kirk would be deployed. I remember all of the teachers immediately pinning on make-shift yellow ribbons. I remember calling my babysitter to make sure Keaton was okay. I remember still trying to teach because we, as teachers, were going to allow the younger students' parents to tell them what happened. I remember going home after work and watching nothing but the news for hours upon hours even though I watched the same footage a million times.

September 11 will forever be emblazoned in my memory. It was the first time I felt truly patriotic towards this country. It was the first time as a mother that I felt truly scared for the safety of my child. It was the first time as a wife that I felt like I might lose my husband.

What saddens me now is that I feel like I'm becoming calloused. So much talk of war, terrorists, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and 9/11 memorials. There are Osama Bin Ladin bumper stickers, jokes, and late-night TV spoofs. All of this has turned 9/11 into something "normal" for me. I hate that. I hate that it doesn't evoke a sense of anger and sadness mixed with patriotism for me every single time I hear that date -- only happens if I really, really think about what happened.

I want my children to understand the magnitude of what happened on that day. I want them to know about our great President who led our country in such a profound way through such a terrible, grotesque national tragedy. I want them to know that they are part of the greatest nation on this earth, and that they have an extravagant heritage and legacy -- just because they're Americans.

My red shirt and black skirt mean nothing to that day....except to be the constant reminder to me that I was part of something huge that September day. Something that I may not think of often enough and may not honor like I should, but something that I will forever carry with me and attempt to do my best to share with my children....

May God Bless America.