At 5:30 am on September 11, 2001 I was in a very deep sleep when our home phone rang. It was my husband’s friend, Tim calling us looking for Gary, hoping that he hasn’t left for work just yet. I remember feeling exceptionally tired that morning… Perhaps it’s because at that time, I was 5 months pregnant with our “miracle son” Garrett.
Tim was so distraught and he said: “Turn on the news! There was a major explosion in New York and the Twin Towers were bombed!”
I sat in bed in shock and I wept as I witnessed a plane crash into one of the Twin Towers. At first, I was on denial. I thought to myself, this has got to be the biggest prank ever puled off my the media, and this can’t be happening. It was simply incomprehensible that something like this could happen to the US… the strongest and most loved nation in the world! Well, at least that’s what I thought then….
As the events about the flights unfolded, I then realized that a plane was actually flown right into the building and shortly I found out there were 2 United Airlines Flights involved in the planned attack that morning – UA Flight 175 and UA Flight 93. As soon as I heard that, my entire body froze. Why were these flights relevant to me that day?
It’s because these flights were part of my regular flight assignments a few months back, just before I got pregnant.
Being quite familiar with those routes hit me hard when I heard of what happened to those flights. I vividly remembered the exact layout of both the 767 and 757 and was mortified as the news speculated on what could have happened to the passengers and crew of those flights. I broke down with emotion as I couldn’t bear to imagine how horrifying those last few minutes were for the Flight Attendants and passengers on board.
My brain couldn’t process what was going on… I thought about how all of those people on the flight, left their homes, drove their cars or had shuttle pick up or friends drop them off that morning to the airport, eagerly waited for their flights, boarded the plane and were greeted and welcomed by the Flight Attendants.
I thought about those Flight Attendants and Pilots who said good-bye to their families that morning, to go to work, check in at their Inflight Offices, did their briefings, boarded the plane, did their pre-flight safety check, prepared the Galley and welcomed the passengers with a smile.
What seemed to be a typical day of work turned into the nightmares or nightmares!
I got on my hands and knees, thanking God that I wasn’t working that flight, as I could have easily been one of the Flight Attendants working that trip that day! At the same time, I felt horrible and sick to my stomach to even begin to imagine of what really happened to the flight crew and their passengers.
I didn’t know how to feel… On one hand, I was saying, “Thank you God, for saving my life….”
Yet I was sad, confused and wondered, “Why them and not me?”
I did my best to function that day. I remember I jumped out of bed, went to the bank, took $3,000 in cash, then went grocery shopping for canned goods and food. In my mind I was thinking of The Port of Los Angeles could be the next target. I felt as tough we actually lost a huge part of our freedom.
Much has happened since 9/11/01. Our Garrett is now almost 10 years old and while he was in Mommy’s tummy on 9/11/01, he has an understanding of what went on during that day and the critical role it played in our history.
Just the other day, I was with him at the grocery store and I saw this cover of People Magazine:
The image of this girl on the front cover, holding a photo of her father on a necklace that she wears, was a painful yet inspiring reminder of that day. I showed Garrett photos of more children in the magazine who have truly never seen their parents who were killed from the senseless acts of 9/11.
There was a big shift in his demeanor that morning. We paged through the magazine together, we looked at the photos and as we read more about how these children have to grow up missing one or both parents, he asked me: “Mom, I feel so sorry for them… why would people do such a bad thing?”
I had to think long and hard before I answered that. I wanted to make sure that commemorate this day with respect, reverence and gratitude. I want to make sure that this day will have a positive meaning for him so that it will count for something and not just be another day in history.
To Garrett’s question, I simply answered:
“People do things – bad or good – for different motivation and while we can’t control the outcome, there is one thing we always have control of, and that is what lesson or story we choose to get out of everything happens in our lives, knowing that how we need deal with such circumstances is what truly shapes our character.”
Sure I could have instigated anger, hate and disappointment but I wanted the sacrifices of our esteemed men and women from 9/11 to count for something.
I chose to have 9/11 mean something more than just being a conspiracy theory or a result of a religious war or simply the inability of government to protect us.
I chose to honor this day as something that has reshaped and strengthened America and her people and not focus on the vulnerability and the weakening of a great nation.
I believe that if we all do our best to never forget and make 9/11 count for something and teach the generations after us that this day is when Americans showed the world that in diversity, we showed strength, that in our weakest days, even for one brief moment, we stood firm and once again put the word “UNITED” back in the United States.
Let’s make 9/11 count for something by not forgetting and by making something out of ourselves and collectively making a difference. Yes, I am a naturalized citizen of the United States but I LOVE AMERICA, probably more than some people who have been given the privilege to be born here yet take that for granted. If they only knew how millions of people all over the world would do whatever it takes to have the opportunity to come here, there might be more of an appreciation for that blessing of being born here.
In the words of my favorite song:
“I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m FREE
And I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me,
And I’d gladly stand up, next to him and defend her still today
Coz there ain’t no doubt I LOVE THIS LAND
God Bless the USA…”
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