September 11, 2001. A day that we as Americans will always remember. A day we all changed.
Looking back at it, I am always overwhelmed with emotion. Every year since this took place, I find it hard to watch the news, hard to relive those moments.
That was the day I realized how alone we all are.
Sound asleep. Dreaming…. maybe even drooling… then my brother’s voice woke me up. “Ange, a plane just hit one of the twin towers in New York!” I turned over half asleep and asked him what he was doing awake. I thought he was joking, so I fell right back to sleep. What seemed like only a minute later, my brother woke me up again, telling me another plane had hit the other tower. I decided I should get up and go look at the television. If in fact he was kidding, I would have reason to kick his butt.
Walking out of my room, I could hear the news. I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and knew it was not a joke. When I got to the living room, I heard them talking about it being a terrorist attack and how we were not safe. Until that point in my life, I never feared for anything like that. I was terrified.
We were on military soil. I knew we were in great risk of being targeted as I lived in military housing on Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska. For those of you who do not know, Offutt AFB is the home of StratCom (Strategic Air Command). That is the underground bunker where the president goes to in case of an emergency. Yep, it was all over the news too, “President Bush is aboard Air Force One, heading to Offutt AFB”…. I was beyond fearful.
Stepping out of my house, I lit up a cigarette (yes, that was when I smoked) and stood on the steps on my back patio with my brother next to me. We said nothing. There was nothing we could say. Soon we heard the fighter jets. We looked up in the sky and watched as Air Force One, accompanied by jets fly right over our house and land at Offutt. I kept thinking that surely these terrorist were still out there. Waiting to find the next place. Waiting to take another plane and crash it into Offutt where our President was. Where I was.
Walking back inside the house, I felt no peace. I did not feel safe or secure. I felt anxious and alone. I watched the news and cried my eyes out as countless victims threw themselves out of the burning buildings. I cried as I read the names and ages of the victims on the planes. I was overwhelmed with sadness and still to this day can not think about it without tearing up.
Everything changed that day. Getting around Offutt was much harder. Security was at high alert. There was fear everywhere. I had just turned 23 and until that day, I thought I was so old and wise. I realized on that day, how insignificant I was.
I remember traveling a few weeks after 9/11 to Gatlinburg, TN to spend time with my family in their timeshare. There were signs everywhere saying “Thanks for Traveling” “God Bless America” and the like. Also, everywhere you looked you would see a beautiful American Flag flying. It was a time that stood still. I felt lucky to have my family safe and sound and only a phone call away. I felt pain for those who no longer had that.
A lot has changed in ten years. Looking back at this time ten years ago is somewhat hard to do. We all have changed. We all have loved, lost, grew, failed, laughed, cried and changed… a lot I am sure. I will look back at 9/11 this weekend and hold my children tight who were not alive when this took place. I will explain it to them the best I can, as I do every year, through the tears.