Where Were You?

September 11th, 2001.

Where were you?

I was home alone – in my childhood home in Western Maryland – which was a quiet, secluded property several miles from town, no neighbors within shouting distance.

The sun was shining, the air was a bit brisk… It was autumn in the mountains.

My mother and I were in the final stages of packing up the house in preparation for our cross-country move to Albuquerque.  Everything was chaos – there were boxes everywhere, representing at the very least, the first 18 years of my life that I’d lived in that house.  There was no TV, no radio, and I was accustomed to the quiet of the country.

My sweet Westie, Blanca, was my only companion that morning.

When the phone rang, mid-morning sometime, I assumed it was my mom checking in on me, or reminding me of something else I needed to be doing other than reading Harry Potter.

It was indeed my mother… And I remember her saying, in a slightly shaky voice, “We’ve been attacked.”

At first, I didn’t believe the attacks could be as bad as she was describing.  She was describing a nightmare that couldn’t possibly be real.  She told me to turn on the portable radio and listen to any news station I could find with a signal.

I hung up the phone in a daze, and took the small, battery operated radio outside to the front porch.  I think I brought Blanca outside with me too.

I sat on the top step, turned the volume up, and pressed the speaker to my ear.  The voices were fuzzy, but I listened to the recount of the planes hitting the towers.

When I’d heard everything I could retain, I turned the radio off and sat there, stunned.  My eyes roamed around my childhood home – the yard, the gardens, the trees, the barn in the distance, and the surrounding fields… Everything looked the same.  But everything had changed.

The silence of the country, which had always been benign, now felt heavy – almost insidious.  We had been attacked.  The Twin Towers.  The Pentagon.  A field in Pennsylvania.

I lived in the middle of many adjoining fields… Was I safe?  Was anyone safe?

Where were you?

Sometime later – it was impossible to know how much time I’d been sitting outside in silence with my dog – the phone rang again.  This time it was my friend, Kristen.  She was calling to check in on me, and I just remember her saying, “What do you think of everything that’s happening today?”

Fifteen years later, some of the in-between details have faded from my memory… But I remember the silence.  The shock.  I remember reeling from the sheer magnitude of the events, feeling sorrow for the innocent souls lost, and fear for people I knew in New York.  Fear for people everywhere.

What did it all mean?  What was going to happen next?

My mom came home later that afternoon, and informed me that we were going to my Godparent’s house for dinner, comradery, and to watch the President’s live speech.  I was relived.  Everything was always better around my Godparents.

As we were getting ready to leave, we heard another vehicle coming down the driveway – it was my father.

My parents had been separated since January of 2000, and the August that followed their separation brought his brain tumor diagnosis.  There was a brief period when he was able to live independently in a cabin his parents owned, not far from where I grew up.

I’m not proud of this, but at that stage in my life – at 18 years old – I was very angry with my father.  I was angry at him for leaving my mother (twice), angry at him for getting cancer, and SO angry at him for deciding to place his care in the hands of his other family members, instead of with us.

Anyway.  I digress.

I remember my dad getting out of his car and walking over to greet us – he asked if we had plans for dinner.  My mom informed him that we were heading to my Godparent’s house… I can’t recall if either of them mentioned the terrorist attacks.

What I do remember, is my father’s expression.  He had large, round eyes – like I do – only his were as blue as the afternoon sky on a clear day.  There was sadness in his eyes, even as he smiled at me.

As I revisit this memory now, I realize that he was silently expressing his desire for company on that tragic, frightening day.

He didn’t want to be alone.

Instead of extending him an invitation to join us, we said ‘goodbye’ and drove away.

I hope he found somewhere else to be that evening… I hope he went to another door that invited him inside.

I know it doesn’t matter now – but I ache for my father in those moments, and I pray that in his afterlife he has no memories of ever being alone, anywhere.

I also pray for our nation, and all nations who stand united in peace.

September 11th, 2001.

Where were you?

U.S. Air Force photo credit: Denise Gould

Tribute in Light

2 thoughts on “Where Were You?

  1. Mama

    Not my finest hour…

    • Molly

      Nor mine. 🙁

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