The following was written about two years ago and was never intended for publication. In light of the ten year anniversary of the September 11th attacks on our Country I thought it fitting to share this with you. I make no apologies; I present my memories and observations for history’s sake.
The Titanic sank April 15th, 1912. Of the 1,316 passengers and 891 crew members, 705 souls survived. The world was shocked that a ship advertised to be unsinkable should lie at the bottom of the ocean less than thirteen months after being launched. May 7th, 1915, a German submarine torpedoed the Lusitania killing 1,198 men, women and children. December 7th, 1941, a day that will live in infamy. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Navy lost 2,730 killed, 656 wounded; the Army 168 killed, 223 wounded. April 19th, 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City was blown up by American terrorists. 168 were left dead, ranging from the unborn to the elderly, 680 people were injured.
Every great tragedy in our history is captured by the individuals who experienced it and remember what they were doing when the hour of horror struck. We can remember very distinctly where we were at, and how we first learned of a world changing event. For posterity, I give my account of the most reality shaking event of my time.
September 11th, 2001. I woke up Tuesday morning and got ready for school just like any other day. It was my senior year in high school at Marias des Cygne Valley in Melvern Kansas. The first class of the day was wood working. It was about a quarter after nine o’clock when someone came in the room and said that the World Trade Center was just hit by a plane. We didn’t seem to think too much of it as that was all the information we had. Some years before a small air coupe had crashed into the White House and created very little damage, although the country was somewhat stirred up over it. I thought that was all that had happened in this case. A small airplane had crashed into the building and the pilot lost his life, and surely not much more damage than that. As I recall, there were several of us standing outside in the morning sun, the teacher as well. We noticed that one of the jet trails in the sky made a u-turn. Our teacher, Dennis Hockett, remarked, “That’s not a good sign.” It wasn’t until the next class that we witnessed the whole of the story.
Our Ag teacher, Danny Rice, had the television turned on and we sat the whole class period glued to the TV. It wasn’t a small plane that crashed into the Trade Center, it was a huge jet intentionally flown into it! And just shortly before we came to class and watched the events unfold on TV, a second plane had hit the other tower. It was then that I understood the jet trail in the sky. The President had grounded all air traffic for several days after. I recall very clearly, looking up at the sky at night and not seeing one light from an airplane, not hearing any noise that was created by engines. And during the day not a jet trail in the sky. I use to wish that I could have lived in the days when you could see the sky unadulterated by air craft. I got my wish, but I never expected to see it and certainly not under such conditions.
There was also an attack on the Pentagon, and a jet crashed in Pennsylvania thanks to the passengers who decided to determine their own end and protect as many lives as they could. We were all stunned. How could this happen? Who could have done this and why? Was this the beginning of the third world war? Was China making an attempt to overthrow the U.S.? Our mind was full of questions and no one had answers.
We watched as things only got worse. If it weren’t enough to see the smoke pouring out of the Towers, and the people trapped in them jumping to a quick end, one of the Towers started to fall. It seemed like it took an age for the building to stop falling. Clouds of ash and dust enveloped everyone and everything for blocks and blocks away. Masses in the street were running to keep from being swallowed up and choked by the ash. Then, after a few moments the other Tower collapsed, and a repeat of the first scene. It was impossible to believe that the two tallest structures in America were now leveled to the ground, and even worse to think of the thousands that must have died there. I don’t remember how the rest of the school day went, but we all knew we had seen the most terrific event of our lifetime if not for centuries to come.
When I got home, of course my grandpa had seen everything on TV. I’m sure this compared with Pearl Harbor to him, if it didn’t surpass it. All he could say was, “This is a hell of a thing to happen the day before my birthday.” Not that he was concerned about his birthday, but because we all try to relate these catastrophes with our personal life, and in a way they are personal, even if it don’t directly affect us.
That evening I went to the Mt. Pleasant church just down the road from our farm. I don’t know if someone had called me and told me there would be a prayer meeting that night, or if I just went there and found that a prayer meeting ensued. I was alone when I arrived at the church, and went in and sat at the piano in the dark and turned the hymnal to “Hear Our Prayer, O Lord.”
“Hear our prayer, O Lord,
Hear our prayer, O Lord,
Incline Thine ear to us,
And grant us Thy peace.
As I was playing people started to fill the sanctuary. They thought I was there to play for them, but I was there for my own need. We gathered in the old sanctuary and watched our President George Bush address the Nation as to the events of the day. The rest of the evening was spent on our knees crying out to God for help, protection, comfort to those who had lost loved ones, direction for the future of our Nation, and sighing groans that only the Spirit could give utterance to. Tears were streaming down the cheeks of our faithful patriarchs and matriarchs of the church.
Before that day was closed, gas prices were rumored to sky rocket and in some places they did. I saw lines of people trying to fill up at the gas stations on the news, and was dumbfounded why gas should go up. Two buildings and 2,973 people were destroyed today, and they are worried that there will be a want of gas?! I refused to be a part of the hysteria sweeping the country. I witnessed for myself, the gas price in Lyndon shot up over $4 per gallon. I felt no compulsion to fill up while I could. I figured if things are really going to get so bad, I’ll walk or ride my bike. Of course the next day the gas was back to normal again, and all over the country gas stations had to pay back to customers for gouging.
At the time of writing this, it has been nearly ten years ago that these things took place. Since then we have become familiar with words like Al-Qaida, Afghanistan, terrorist, homeland security, Bin Laden, Guantanamo Bay, water boarding and many more. No one wants to give the terrorists (whoever they are) any credit, because we are America, we are great, resilient; we will fight back and persevere. All of that may be true, but I believe the terrorists accomplished all they went after and more. We are deprived of liberties we once had, and most of all peace of person, property and possessions. I’d rather have my Constitutional and God granted liberties than to feel safe and have the government protect me from myself. It is a different world we live in today. The terrorists were able to make greater and faster changes in our government in less than ten years, than our own taxpaying, voting citizens could have done in fifty years.
I would like to mention one other remarkable occurrence connected with the 9-11 attack. In the early morning hours of the eleventh, a considerable number of our congregation were awakened at about three in the morning. None knew why, some felt disturbed, some didn’t feel anything, but all prayed. I would like to think that those prayers prompted by the Spirit, made a difference in what was to unfold that day.