Our lives will never be the same after Sept. 11 attacks.
When John F. Kennedy was killed in November 1963, I was 6 years old. I remember little, except for the boom-boom-boom of Beethoven’s dirge from the black and white Dumont television during the president’s funeral.
When Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981, I was near Dupont Circle at a meeting, just blocks away in Washington, D.C. Several of us knew Reagan was leaving the Hilton, and we hoped to get a glimpse of him. We were walking in the direction of the Hilton.
Suddenly a group of huge, black cars blew past us.
I didn’t know what happened until I called my mother in Indiana — collect — from a pay phone. Mom had their lone RCA cabinet television on, and knew what happened before I did.
In 1986, under a beautiful blue Florida sky, I stood outside in Tampa with some co-workers to watch space shuttle Challenger rise in the east. I remember that day very well; it was so cool that I wore a blue wool plaid skirt to work. Wearing wool in Central Florida is most unusual, even in January.
Even from a hundred miles away, the launch of a shuttle was an amazing site. This one was confusing; a minute or so after launch, something happened. Plumes of smoke flew in every direction, and pieces of the ship followed. The long, white smoke trailed off forever. Again, we had to rely on the television in the hospital lobby to affirm the horror we had just witnessed.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was getting ready for work. I watched ‘The Today Show,’ which isn’t live in Central Time. Suddenly the view shifted, the anchors mumbled, and the southward-focused camera on the roof of Rockefeller Center showed a smoking World Trade Center. Katie Couric said something about a small plane possibly off-course, hitting the Trade Center.
My husband also was preparing for work when the first plane hit, our sixth-grader was already at Sharon School taking the ISTEP test.
that Tuesday was a day never to be forgotten.
I never went to work. I couldn’t leave the television, and I sat there half dressed for hours. My company called eventually and told us to stay home; most physician offices were closing and didn’t need the interruption of sales reps. My husband went to work at the university — classes continued, but students were distracted.
At my son’s elementary school, his teacher wheeled in a television and turned it away from the students. She turned the sound down, but my son caught enough to know that something was up. The principal made the decision to continue the testing. At least every Indiana student tested on a level playing field, some with uncertain knowledge of the world burning.
When my son got off the bus at 3 p.m. I was waiting at the end of the driveway.
Later that evening I went to the store to pick up some groceries. Flying above me in formation was a squadron of F-16s. I knew what kind of planes they were from the movies. While we live between Fort Campbell, Fort Knox and Scott Air Force Base, I had not seen planes flying so low and along the path of Indiana 66 near the Ohio River.
While we witness history daily — sometimes up close — Sept. 11, 2001, was a day that compared to no other. I knew life would never be the same in my 11-year-old’s lifetime, even in this small Midwestern town.