Where were you when…

I work with an amazing group of gals in the infant room at daycare. Our latest addition is Angie. She has similar hours to mine but works every day-I do not. She has a teaching degree but with 2 young children and a husband, isn’t ready for a full time teaching position just yet. My problem with this gal? Angie talks soft and doesn’t move her mouth much. Kind of odd that still surprises me. I don’t realize how much I read lips when someone’s talking until I don’t get any help from the non-movement of their mouth. I literally want to stand by-her-face-to-face, lay my hands on her cheeks and massage her mouth into moving. OK, now I understand you Ang. Other times, with 12 noisy babies, she could have the voice of James Earl Jones and not one of us could hear or understand a word she said.

The expressive mouths of Jovi and Mommy, 2017…

Angie (the-soccer-mom) posted a question on Facebook the other day. I thought about it for a minute and was about to type my comment. As I was reading the comments from other people, their words took me back many years. I decided to write about both events. And I didn’t want to bore Angie and her friends with my book long comment. OK, you can stop nodding your heads about my comments. I have issues saying stuff with very few words. And I prefer to call them chapters.

I knew it was going to be a fabulous day. Late summer, early morning and I was ready to start my walk. About a block from my house in North Muskegon, I head up the dreaded hill to get to the main drag of town, Ruddiman Drive. No sidewalk on 2nd Street, but if I ignore how steep the incline is, it’s the favorite part of my walk. There are trees on both sides of the street at the top of the hill filling my view. Some evergreens but mostly deciduous. So far, not one tree had started turning color-yet. Just above the steep incline of asphalt in my view is gorgeous dark green-leaves and branches of pine needles. Oodles of them, but that’s not what make the sight so spectacular. It’s that vivid blue sky above the trees. Not that sometimes pale blue which reminds me of Joshua’s eyes when he was a baby and didn’t feel well-blue. No, not navy blue either, but closer to Chicago Cubs blue. Flat out-a beautiful summer day sky. This color blue just pops, especially against the striking vivid green shades. Awesome. Thanks for that God.

I already owned a cell phone, but used it sparingly. Mom and Dad were beginning to have some health issues, so my trips to Iowa were becoming more frequent. As long as I had good transportation, I was fine making the 750 mile trek by myself 3 or 4 times a year. Having a cellphone by my side in case I had car problems and needed to go all damsel-in-distress-mode to the Hubs (miles away, but still) was reassuring. Back then, I never gave a thought of taking it along for my hour daily walk.

After I get home I wait a few minutes to cool down and stop sweating before heading upstairs to shower. It’s close to 9 when our home phone rings. It’s John telling me to turn on the news, there’s been a horrible accident/explosion. By the time I’m sitting at the dining room table, there’s already on-going news coverage. It’s hard for me to accept this is really happening right before my eyes. My brain is working overtime trying to reason/justify how this plane could ever get so far off course and not see that big-ass skyscraper right in its path. Then a second plane appears, heading straight for the south tower of The World Trade Center. My heart is thumping loud enough to be distracting-but fear and dread replace the thumps when I realize this must have been on purpose.

Never did shower on that awful day. Sat by the table, watching more horror from other locations, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. Crying and shaking my head in disbelief. No commercials, no breaks, no afternoon or night time programs. The absolute worst for me were the people who jumped. My mind simply couldn’t/wouldn’t-comprehend/accept what my eyes saw until the news station asked a psychiatrist to explain what was going through their minds. These people already knew they were going to die. For them, there was no escaping the fire/flames/heat/smoke. They realized they were surely going to perish in one of the worst ways imaginable. These individuals are taking what little control they still have over the last few seconds of their lives. And if it was hard for me to understand while watching this unfold, try and imagine what was going through their minds. Dear God. Those poor souls.

I’m not a big TV fan. I watch several series that we tape with Hubs at night, however I would easily give up the boob tube long before my books and iPad. But for about 3 days I could not stop watching the coverage on TV. Probably emotionally unhealthy but when Americans are going through this un-ending horror I felt compelled-not to resume my normal life either. Suddenly there was no normal. It was days before the television stations went back to their regular scheduled programming or took commercial breaks. Before 9-11, I can’t ever remember days of news without a commercial break.

Three disturbing incidents happened to me during the following days. The first was while I was on my walk the next morning. North Muskegon has a population of about 4,000. It sits about a mile and a half (by water) from Lake Michigan, languishing between Muskegon Lake and Bear Lake. So it’s a narrow little town, only about 6 blocks wide most places. One main street, Ruddiman runs through most of it. If you wanna get a speeding ticket, try driving over 30 through it. At the top of the hill on Ruddiman were 4 police cruisers, all parked, lights on but no sirens. (Until that day, I didn’t know N. Muskegon had 4 police cruisers, or that many policemen for that matter). The object of their concerned interest was an older vehicle model with something secured to the roof of their car. Honestly, looked like a Directv satellite dish, screwed to the top of this car. I don’t know if this car would have been stopped driving through our sleepy town before 9-11, but the day after seemed to render the start of a different era in what some would deem ‘suspicious behavior.’

The second incident happened the same day. When I got back from my walk, all cruisers, cops and satellite car dude had disappeared. I showered and headed to church which had opened its doors, welcoming all to come in and pray. Ran into the pastor on my way in and he expressed his thoughts on the last 2 days. He said it was our fault. America’s fault for the terrorist’s attacks. We asked for it. We goad other countries. Everyone hates the U.S. and what we stand for. Oh bloody hell I don’t need to hear your shit. Stop talking. (One of 4-less than favorite preacher bosses in a row. Not a typo, that is indeed the number 4. And he wasn’t the worst, but ranked right near the top. Don’t even get me started. Yes, it’s a big chip I’m lugging around lately about organized religion. My cross to bear).

About a week later, I thought some kind of normal life had returned. Just weeks before, about 10 miles south from my house, our fabulous new Lakes Mall had opened. Suddenly I needed to get out, be near people, perusing shelves in sparkly new stores for something mundane. Anything to feel normal again. So I head to the mall. I’m coming to the stop light at Harvey and Sternberg where Perkins Restaurant was located. In their parking lot was the most beautiful American flag, flapping softly in the morning breeze. It’s one of those oversized flags, stunning against another true-blue summer sky. And the flag is flying at half staff. Sucked the breath right out of me. I round the corner and pull into the lot. Just sat there and sobbed. Guilt floods me. How can I think of shopping when this world changing terror attack happened a few short days ago? I have no heart. Turn the car around and head back home. Too soon. It’s too fresh and too soon. I couldn’t go back to the mall for weeks after that first attempt.

Getting back to Angie and her post question, where were you when 9-11 happened? The comments made by her friends? In junior or senior high, Mr. So & So’s class. Dang, this 50 year old already had 2 grandchildren, Ariana 10 and Landon who just had his first birthday. Couple gals commented on having young children already, but most were in their early/mid teens at the time.

Landon & Ariana 2001…

Which was what brought me back so many years ago when I first read Angie’s post. The day was November 22, 1963 and I was 12. It was a Friday and I was making my way to the new library from the old school building through a long hallway. I believe just before the double library doors were a couple of steps. I was on these steps when someone (can’t remember who it was) caught up to me and said president Kennedy had just been shot. Soon we were sent home from school. My Mom had already left work and was watching our black and white TV. Walter Cronkite solemnly announced President John F. Kennedy was dead. Mom and I watched all afternoon, crying together. He was so young and handsome. He had little kids, younger than me. Why on earth would anyone want to harm him? If you were around, who could forget the procession with the horse drawn hearse? Never forget that scene.

Two world changing events. The first one, when I was not yet a teen, the second nearly 40 years later. Anyone old enough-remembers exactly what they were doing at that moment. We all have moments in our lives we’ll never forget. Some very personal, getting married, giving birth, or losing someone we love. Other events, not so personal, but mourned and remembered by millions. The highs and lows of life…

One thought on “Where were you when…

  1. 9/11I was with my group at Saint Edward the Confessor Church praying the rosary as usual, no idea what was happening. A parishioner came into the otherwise empty church and asked us, in a shaky voice, to pray for our country – no explanation given. It was only in the parking lot that the rosary leader motioned for me to turn on my car radio and …11/22/63While student teaching one afternoon, the principal came to the door and whispered the news to my mentor who then informed me. The kids, who all happened to be walkers, were sent home immediately, just as you were, Denise.I think I've written these two accounts somewhere in other comments, not sure.Sad, very sad.

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