I’m taking a turn from my usual subject matter, for what I hope are obvious reasons today. Every year, I like to share the Budweiser tribute commercial. I think everyone has probably seen it by now, but if you weren’t aware, Budweiser only aired the commercial once, so as not to benefit financially from it. Their only goal was a show of respect. For a horse-person, and an American, it’s deeply touching ( I share it, but I don’t watch it unless I’m alone, because it still brings tears, even after seeing it so many times).
Every year I’m reminded of where I was, what I was doing, and the events of the day as they unfolded. I recall thinking, “I need to remember this. I need to record it, or find a way to keep the memory alive. These are the stories you share with your children and grandchildren.” This year, I started thinking about it last night a little, then this morning, or my drive into work, a bold reminder presented itself, not unlike that morning, now 13 years ago, as I drove to work. I pass Mott’s Military Museum in Groveport, OH, every morning on my way to the office. They’ve been able to collect a number of artifacts from 9/11, including a fire truck, known now as “Fort Pitts.” It was sitting at the base of the second WTC tower as it collapsed, and saved the lives of members of Engine Company 18, because they were able to crawl under it, and other trucks, using them as shields. Every Thursday at 10am, Warren Motts displays the truck. So, when I drove past on this drizzly, gloomy Thursday morning, around 7am, their parking lot was already overflowing, with more cars, and emergency response vehicles, waiting in the road to turn in. For more information about the Motts Military Museum, please go to their website, http://www.mottsmilitarymuseum.org/index.html.
In September of 2001, I was working for a local tack store. I was married at the time, to a state trooper, and I remember talking to him on the phone, as I drove to work around 9am that morning. Back then, I listened to a morning radio show on a top 40 station, with crazy dj’s who all had funny nicknames, and were known for their ridiculous stunts. When their news girl broke into their dialogue with the shocking news, it didn’t seem suspect at first. I don’t know that it seemed real to anyone at first. The initial plane, crashing into the first tower, could have easily been a one-off accident, or some crazy fake news story… But it wasn’t. She usually had humor in her voice when she would read something silly or fake, but her voice was notably more serious that morning. The show ground to a halt as she went to the internet to look for more information, as the second plane struck the second tower. In shock she went on to describe the events, all along questioning if it was real and why it was happening.
By the time I reached the tack store, everyone’s attention was focused on the radio news. It was eerily still inside, dark in some corners where florescent lights hadn’t warmed up yet, the owner and few other employees who’d arrived early all gathered beneath a speaker, mouths agape. As our day began, the additional planes crashed in Pennsylvania and Washington DC. The towers crumbled under the stress of the blows they’d received, and America came to the realization that we were under attack.
We did our best to carry on as usual, only stopping when new information was shared on the radio, to listen. Customers came and went; we talked about what we’d heard, and how they were dealing with the news. Parents talked about how their children came home to them, asking questions they’d never thought they’d have to answer in their lifetime. “Mommy, Daddy, are we at war?” To say that the day was overwhelming, is a tremendous understatement, and it didn’t even affect me directly (not knowing anyone injured or lost personally, and not having been near any of the crash sites). How the people who were affected, did get through that day, and the days after, I can’t even begin to imagine. I know when tragedy strikes, as humans, we often shift unknowingly, into an auto-pilot function. We find the will and the way to do what needs to be done, to help who needs to be helped, and to get through whatever adversity until it’s behind us. It is unfathomable. Yet, here we are, 13 years after, and we’re still standing. Dirty, bruised, and beaten, but not broken.
There was a television in the house behind the tack store, which I think we tried to watch, but couldn’t really get a picture on, so I didn’t actually see what had happened until I got to my parents’ house that night. It occurs to me now, going there, instead of home. Maybe my (then) husband was working, I’m not sure. Maybe I just wanted to be around my family. I sat on the sofa in the living room, in stunned silence, tears running down my cheeks, and watched the replay of the attacks for the first time. Thinking about it now still makes my chest tight. If you’ve never had to witness a tragedy before, the first time it happens, you feel compelled to watch it over and over, to allow your mind the chance to absorb everything it’s experiencing, and put it all in some kind of identifiable order.
Another piece of that day that stands out, is a photograph that was published in nearly every magazine and paper. You might remember it by description; it was of one of the towers, and a man, either falling from, leaping from, or being thrown from it. You couldn’t make out the man’s face, but you could see what he was wearing clearly enough. I remember thinking, “what a terrible photo to publish.” That man was someone’s husband/father/brother/son, and while I can’t see what he looks like, someone will see it, and know that he was their loved one, and that will be the last picture they have of him.
I’m reasonably certain, that as every family member, returned to every home that night, all over the world, people hugged tighter, said “I love you” more, or maybe for the first time even, and breathed collective sighs of relief, that they were together at the end of the day. Here we are now, 13 years later, possibly facing another war, just as we felt we might have been on the path to recovery from the last. War is inevitable I guess, destruction and recovery a part of life.
To every member of America’s front line, I applaud and appreciate you. The choices you have to make are often difficult, but I trust that they’re in the best interest of our country. To the families, friends, pets, and loved ones, waiting at home, I applaud and appreciate you, for your sacrifice. To those who’ve lost their lives, standing up for the country and beliefs they call their own, you have my appreciation and ultimate respect. God bless America ❤