Menifee Mom: 9-11 Didn't Kill American Spirit

By Karen Thomas

Every year when Sept. 11 rolls around, I, like so many others, find myself remembering exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first found out about the planes hitting the World Trade Center.

We were living outside of Philadelphia at the time. My oldest daughter was just 1 ½ years old. It was a normal morning for us. My husband was at work and we had settled in the family room. I was folding laundry, she was "helping," and I was watching the "Today" show.

The regular morning chatter on the TV was interrupted with images of the World Trade Center on fire. They could confirm that a plane had hit the tower, but didn’t know why. As I was watching, the story unfolded. We watched the towers on a live broadcast as they were reporting the aftermath of the first crash. Right before our eyes, we saw the other plane hit the second tower. At that moment, the entire country knew we were under attack.

I’ll never forget the somber tone that took over the newscasters in that moment or how the feelings of shock, fear, and vulnerability overtook me in an instant. But what really has stuck with me all these years was that my daughter, who had been loudly playing with her toys, suddenly turned quiet and subdued. She climbed up on my lap and wanted me to hold her. The whole feeling in the room changed and she could sense something was wrong.

I immediately called my husband at work, so thankful for cell phone technology that made him easy to reach. He said someone had just seen it on a nearby TV and many people were now gathered around watching it. We were both in shock and wishing that we were together at that moment.

Just a month before, we had visited New York City and had taken a photo in front of the World Trade Center. I remember my husband had to lie on his back to get the top of the towers in our picture. We had planned to go up to the top, but we had already had a long day and had been to the top of the Empire State Building. We’d said we would go to the top of the twin towers next time. We never thought there wouldn’t be a next time.

Over the next few days and weeks, we heard stories from friends who often commuted into NYC for work. One woke up that morning and had the thought to cancel his appointment, but didn’t know why. Another one usually took the train into the city, but for some reason decided to drive instead. It turned out his train would have taken him under the towers during the attack.

So many of the events hit close to home. We had a nuclear power plant just a few miles from our house. My husband drove by it every day on his way to work. There was a definite concern of an attack at that location. The military was brought in to guard the plant. Out of caution, we started keeping our gas tanks full and reviewed our emergency plans.

For everyone in our country, the events of 9-11 reminded us that we are vulnerable. We held our loved ones closer and we pulled together as a nation. Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to live in a country that is free from civil war and major unrest. But on the day of the attack, and for quite some time afterwards, we got just a taste of what it is like to live in fear.

However, I believe the events of 9-11, in the end, did the opposite of what our attackers intended. For many, the experience gave us more compassion for those around the globe who aren't as lucky as we are. Even greater though, we found more appreciation for our life in the USA and truly felt "proud to be an American."

Karen Thomas is a stay at home mom of four daughters, has been on the PTA board at her kids' school for four years, and is a volunteer at her church, in addition to her activities as a volunteer soccer referee, a piano teacher, and a runner. Her column will appear here every Thursday. Comments are welcome.


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