The morning of 9.11.01, I was flying on an 8:15 am flight from Atlanta, GA to San Francisco, CA. I was in Corporate Sales for a Hazardous Waste firm and my territory was nationwide so hopping on a plane was a weekly occurrence. Gearing up for a 5 hour flight, I had my laptop out reviewing my presentation when less than 30 minutes into the flight the pilot announced that all flights were ordered to land by orders of the federal government. Our new destination was Memphis, TN. With no internet service, we all speculated what could possibly land every plane in the country. World War III? a Meteor Shower? As much as we guessed, I can say that no one was particularly nervous nor did we have any idea of the gravity of the situation. Once we landed, cell phones were ringing off the hook then turning very silent as each of us listened to our loved ones telling us the news.
We departed from the plane and some of us headed to the Crown Room, which was standing room only. We were all fixated on the tv, which is where I saw the second tower fall. The room gasped in horror and the media started using language like “under attack.” Before, it was the awful demise of a plane accidentally hitting a building. Shortly after the second tower fell, an announcement by the Memphis Airport instructed us to evacuate the airport immediately. What?! How much of the country was under attack? We didn’t know, but we all moved quickly, asking complete strangers if we could catch a ride to our hotels. Mind you, first ones on the ground had exhausted out every rental car so many of us who landed later were stuck in Memphis for the night. I rode with 4 people I didn’t know and was dropped off at my hotel, grateful for a bed, but aching to be with my family back at home.
That evening I had some offers from friends to drive the 6 hours from Atlanta to Memphis to pick me up, but I chose to stay knowing I had a rental car reserved for 6am the next morning. I turned on the tv and learned it wasn’t limited to the Twin Towers, but the Pentagon and another plane crashed in PA. Wow, how did we not see this coming? I sat there for hours watching the tv in shock, calling all my family and friends to make sure everyone was okay and vice versa.
The next morning I woke up early and headed to the rental car agency at 5am because I wanted to make sure I got my car! Thankfully, it was available and I threw my bags in and headed home. You know how you can find yourself thinking and realize you haven’t had the radio on? So after about an hour driving I turned on the radio…it didn’t work. Ugh! Of all times, not to have access to the news. What it did make me pay attention to though was the beautiful countryside, more importantly almost every single home had a flag outside waving proudly. It kept me in tears almost the whole way. I was devastated by the terror of it all and at the same time proud of how we as a country came together within hours.
It took 6 months before I would fly again; eventually, overcoming the fear. I can’t imagine being on one of those planes or in those buildings. My heart goes out to all those who have passed, to all those who live with the daily physical wounds they survived that day and to a country, who has been scarred emotionally. From my perspective, I love how Andy Stanley frames it up in times of uncertainty, “It is about learning to follow through the valleys with confidence that God is in control and that his purposes personally and nationally will not be thwarted.” For more on this see http://bit.ly/Oo0cGK
- 9/11: A timeline of events (myfox8.com)