Sunday, September 11, 2011


Every moment of the morning of September 11, 2001 is engraved into my very soul.

The phone call from my aunt asking if her mother, whom I was living with, was home.  Her pleas for me to check and then to turn on the TV.

The sheer confusion I felt as I watched Good Morning America as the new broadcasts started pouring in after the impact on the first tower.

Then watching, live, on my television, 1300 miles away, the horror unfold as a second plane hit the second tower.

The rest of the morning faded into a blur at that point.  I remember still being on the phone, but really remember nothing of the conversation outside of just complete disbelief.

In the afternoon Grandma Wanda came home and I told her about what had happened...what I had witnessed, in addition to the reports of more planes hitting in Washington DC and Pennsylvania.

I had gotten word around 1am, prior to the attacks, that my best friend was getting ready to leave out on the 12th for a military tour overseas.  He was going to be getting married on the 11th, the next day, and had pleaded with me to find a way out of work to make it to his wedding, that was going to be held in Louisiana, a 10 hour drive from me.  He would hold the ceremony off until I could get there.

The wedding did not take place that day afterall.  But I was still a bit crushed over the news of his impeding wedding.  I'd held out hope until that point that perhaps one day that would be me.  I wrote this for him on his wedding day, about 6 hours before the world was going to be shook.

He still doesn't know it was written for him, and I have no intentions of bringing it to his attention any time soon.  I did call to offer my condolences in the end that I would not be able to make his wedding, no one was available to come into work and I was one of only a very small handful that would be going into work that day.  His wedding was called off as he was called into immediate Active Duty.  I'd never been so scared for someone in my life...until my baby brother signed up to join the Marines in 2007.

I remember going into work and feeling like the whole town was dead.  Not just the town, but the country.  Everyone was in stunned shock.

I worked as a server at the time at a Ruby Tuesday, in Bentonville, AR, just down the road from the WalMart Home Offices.

We had the sound on the television sets and every station was turned to a news cast about the events...I don't remember there being an option for well over a week...or a month..I don't know.  I quit watching TV that week for a few years.  Afraid.  Scared that there would be similar images engraved over the images already engraved into my mind.

In a small sense I was very naive that evening as I waited on the small handful of persons who'd come into eat, or pick at food, or watch TV, or just sit there stirring their drink in somber thoughtfulness.  Most were stranded businessmen, in town for something to do with WalMart, unable to get home to their families.  It was a very eery evening.

Traffic was backed up for miles at all the gas stations, everyone in a panic to stock up on all the gas they could get into their possession, even at $8-12 a gallon.

As the evening came to a close the empty restaurant became emptier.  Soon I was left with just five patrons in the whole restaurant, almost half of whom had been there during our 'rush' of that evening.

I was on complete auto pilot.  Faces barely registered, personal conversations were nothing more than muddles of noise amongst the newscasts.

I was lost in my own fears and worries.  My late husband's dad had just taken a new job in the North Tower and there was still no word about his well being.  There would be no word about him for almost a week.

He had two newborn baby girls and a fairly new wife waiting for him in Georgia, they'd stayed behind while he sought out a permanent place to live in New York City.

I had a table of patrons in the restaurant who were obviously foreigners, but I thought nothing of it.  Just blocks from the WalMart Home Offices it is not uncommon to see persons from all nationalities, all there to do business with WalMart.

Pieces of me wish I had not been completely lost in my own mind so that I could have caught onto the bits that lead up to the next few hours of horrifying shock.

There were only four employees on duty as it was, myself, the bartender, the manager, and one kitchen cook...and I even think he went home early to be with his wife who was expected to go into labor at any moment anyways.

One of my other customers though was quite observant.  He'd noticed the pair of foreigners speaking about, from his perception, about the attack on the towers.  Not because he understood the language they spoke, but because of their hand gestures, their body language, and apparent laughter over it all.

By the reports I was given the man that observed all this follow the two men out to their vehicle, that happened to be a white, unmarked van, with Canadian tags.

I was questioned in regards to these foreign men, what they had ordered, what I had witnessed about their behaviors, what they looked like, etc.  I still don't have a clue.

The report I was given, during my Federal interrogation, was that these men had commissioned the van into a huge bomb, under the assumed intention of blowing up some portion of the WalMart Home Offices.  I think I mentally shut down at that point.  I remember nothing much.  I was back to reliving the events of April 19, 1995 when a truck bomb was used to blow up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  I was in 7th grade, in Oklahoma, when that happened.  That was already enough for me.  Here I was within feet of a similar bomb, just 6 years later, as I muddled through work on a very horrific day for America.

I made arrangements that week to go to New York City for a while.  I felt like my life had no purpose and sitting around waiting for something to happen was getting me no where.  I stayed in NYC for almost 3 months.  I cleared debris, worked in soup kitchens, wandered aimlessly with purpose, in a constant state of disbelief and shock. 

Just before I left out to go to NYC my late husband's father was able to reach us himself.  He was alive and thankful for an early round of the flu.  He had left work early on the 10th because of the flu onset.  He was completely oblivious to everything that had transpired on the 11th until the 13th, when he able to comprehend what he was seeing on the news.  He says he can't tell you what his day was like on the 11th or the 12th.  Says he remembers drifting in and out of sleep to throw-up a time or two, but wasn't aware of much more than that.

My emotions and thoughts during that time are engraved into my soul.  It still feels like it was only yesterday that I was awakened by that phone call from my Aunt.  Other times it feels like it happened to someone else, far away, or perhaps in a movie. 

They say time heals all wounds.  I'm still holding mine together with the hope that the scarring will take place without me witnessing it.  It has not happened yet.  I'll get close to letting the wound bleed a bit so that a clot can form and healing start taking place, but it's hard.

Every day I am reminded of what almost was or what could be and every day I have a smidgeon of fear still lingering.  This country is still at war and may never be not at  war, of some sort.  My fear isn't for my safety or well being.  It is for the safety and well being of the millions of men, women, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends who live their lives with the anticipation of being the heroes that run into the fire to save all the strangers they can..even if it means sacrificing their life in the process.

Some will never leave the fire they run into. Others will be carried away from the fires.  Those that walk away from the fire after it has been calmed will get up the next morning ready to do it again.  My prayers and good will extends to them all.

Police Officers
Emergency Physicians
Marine Forces
Naval Forces
Air Forces
Army Forces
National Guard
Coast Guard
Reserve Forces
Random Stranger on the Street

They each deserve our respect and honor.

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