Like so many people across the U.S. and the World, today I am remembering the horribly frightening day that was September 11, 2001. I remember it so clearly and I'm sure I always will. I've heard many stories about where people were on that day, but one in particular was told to me a year later by a man who lived and worked in The City. He told me his story when I was his waitress in Alaska exactly one year later.
He had taken his son on vacation, maybe to the most remote place in the United States that he could think of, to escape the city during the one year anniversary of that day. His story was one of fear and narrow escape. It was late in the evening and after dinner he sent his son back to their hotel room to play video games while he stayed and ordered himself a drink. He sat quietly in silence. I could feel his thoughts as I watched him. I approached him to see if I could get him anything else and he began to tell me about that day. He was my last table of the evening, so I stayed and listened. Without getting into the details of his story, I can say that I walked away from his table a little different than I was before I met him. I don't know his name, but I'll never forget him. His experience was so frightening and yet his message was one of hope and perseverance. He said that up to that day, he had been focused on being the best, being wealthy, being powerful. And one year later his concerns were for family & friends. His goals were rooted in love and compassion. He left me a very good cash tip. But his story is what I valued most from our encounter.
So where was I on September 11, 2001?
I was 23 years old. I was sleeping cozily in my bed at the home of my father and step-mother in Polson, Montana. I was known for staying up late and sleeping all day, so when my dad called me from work around 7 am MST and asked where I was, I grumbled, "In bed!" like he was the most stupid man alive.
He told me, "Get up! Turn on the tv! We're under attack!" and then he hung up. My father is a dramatic man, so I took my time, but I did eventually get up. I turned on the tv just in time to hear the terror in the newscasters voice as the second plane crashed into the tower. I cried out, "Noooo!!!" as I watched the towers fall! I paced the floors of our safe little house on a beautiful hill top in Montana with a majestic view of the Mission Mountain range. I'd never been so relieved to be in the "middle of nowhere" and yet I didn't feel nearly as safe as I had when I'd gone to bed the night before.
My heart was on the floor!
I thought of all of those people in The City.
In the airplanes.
In the towers.
I felt helpless and horrified. How could this happen?
I'll never, ever forget that horrible day.