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Where Were You on September 11, 2011?

Ten years ago, on the morning of September 11, my day started out ordinary. My husband Scott went to work; Jack, in first grade, was at school learning how to tell the time; and Sari, only 2 years old, dressed her dolls in beads and bows, oblivious to the national crisis that was about to explode before our very eyes.

I was talking on the phone, as usual, to my longtime friend Stacy about nothing important. Then our conversation came to a screeching halt as we watched a breaking news story interrupt the Today Show on NBC. A 767 jet flew into a tower of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. I squeezed the phone between my ear and my shoulder as I folded towels, loaded the dishwasher, and witnessed what seemed like a bizarre, horrific accident. I flashed back to the last time I was in New York City and took in the famous skyline from the 107th floor observation deck of the South Tower, the very same building that was now mysteriously under attack, in flames, and, unknown to us, about to crumble to the ground in ashes. While still on the telephone, 18 minutes later, another giant airliner smashed into the second World Trade Center building that stood strong amidst a bright blue sky now polluted with clouds of suffocating black smoke and angry orange-red fireballs, reminding me of a scene from an Apocalypse movie. At that moment, we all knew it was no accident.

Friends since junior high, we held onto our phones like we were holding hands and sat there in silence for what seemed like the longest time. We were in shock and scared. What would happen next—a nuclear bomb destroys my neighborhood? Finally, we hung up. I don’t think we even said goodbye.

I ran upstairs to grab Sari, and carried her and her baby doll named Agi in my arms as we ran across the street to the brick school building. I wanted to be with my children and protect them, as if I could. God forbid, if we were killed, we would die together. A morbid thought.

When I got to Babler school, the principal rushed me into her office and closed the door behind me as we stared at the small television on her desk. The last time I sat in a principal’s office was when I was caught cheating in third grade math class. This time around, we were equals, vulnerable human beings, American citizens afraid for our country as we held our breath and witnessed the third plane hit the Pentagon building in Washington D.C. We weren’t sure what to say or do. Was this for real? Was this war? Would there still be outdoor recess today?

Next, a fourth hijacked plane, United Airline Flight 93, crashed into a field near Shanksville Pennsylvania. It’s destination was to destroy the White House, supposedly. Seven crew members and 38 passengers sacrificed their lives that morning to change destiny, and their names and stories of bravery we would come to know and never forget.

I asked Mrs. Strothman if I could take Jack home with me. Her politically correct response: “We have your son’s best interest in mind. If it becomes necessary to evacuate, we will contact the parents to pick up their children. The students are probably better off here at school than at home watching the scary images on television, but the decision is up to you.”

Now the lady wearing a skirt and jacket sounded like a principal.

Reluctantly, I left Jack at school, but her advice was good. As I walked out the door, I overheard people in the parking lot mumble something about airports shutting down, terrorist attacks, schools closing. The rest of the day was a blur. I was glued to the televsion.

To be honest, since 9/11, I’ve never felt safe again, especially when I fly on an airplane. But I have no choice other than to live freely and raise my family in a world where, yes, evil exists, but so does love, humanity, kindness, and peace.

So on the upcoming tenth anniversary of 9/11, and every day for that matter, I will hug my kids, help someone who needs a hand, and try to do my part to make a difference in the world.

And without sounding too much like a politician, God Bless America.