Where Were You When

Originally posted September 12, 2008:

I remember that very morning discussing how to get there.

My colleague and I were headed on a 2-day session at our client's in remote western Maryland. We had been there several times before, but this time, I looked on the map to see if there might be a better route. Should we cut west on the Pennsylvania turnpike then head south? or should we head south then head west along a Maryland highway as we usually do?

In the end, Vince and I decided to take the usual route across northern Maryland. We left early in the morning and were busy talking about our families, the client and other things that you share with a liked team member.

My cell phone rang as we were driving in the beautiful mountains of Route 68. My secretary called in a panicked voice asking if I had spoken with my husband. My heart started pounding and my head began to feel warm. My immediate thought was that something had happened with our family. She went on to explain in a breathy voice that America was being attacked. We had to drive quite awhile before we came upon someplace, a motel. We stopped to see what we could find out. The few patrons were already grouped around the lobby TV set and watched, unbelieving, as we saw in real time the South Tower being hit.

We had no choice but to keep going to our destination, a hospital. When we got to the parking lot, Vince and I, both looking to the same Savior, against all professional tradition, sat in the company car in our client's parking lot . . . and prayed.

We found out that this facility was the third tier in the line of care in cases of catastrophes. By this time, the Pentagon had been hit and there were conflicting reports about Flight 93. We started our meeting, with heaviness. The series of meetings were to last 2 days, and at any time, helicoptors and ambulances might be coming with the casualties from the Pentagon or Shanksville. We continued, heavy-hearted, with the visions of the tower hovering in our hearts.

As the hours wore on into the late afternoon, with no radio contact, no helicoptors, no ambulances, we knew. We knew it was bleak news. Our clients, nurses trained in emergency preparedness, were frank: despite the number of people that had been injured, there weren't enough survivors for their hospital to be needed.

At the end of our sessions, Vince and I headed to our hotel rooms. We each sat in our own room, feeling alone, helpless, lost, and feeling like never before the deep primal need to be with our families. We met the next morning for breakfast, neither one of us having slept well. We continued our meetings. I don't know how we did it. We were there and we had to keep going.

As we drove back across Maryland, and as the news of the Shanksville tragedy became clearer, we realized that had we driven across Pennsylvania the morning before, we probably would have seen a plane in the sky, plummeting down toward an empty field.

I know that how I was touched is nothing compared to what others lived...are living through. But I was touched, as was every other in our country. And, what is it like compared to people who live with this violence every day in other parts of the world? They leave their family in the morning, not knowing if they'll come back with a limb missing, tortured for apparently no reason, or if they'll come home at all. Might we learn something? might we learn to have some love for our fellow human beings who suffer through attacks every month? every week? every day?

I have no conclusion to this story I've shared. How can there be? It is just my heart, poured out for the sadness and evil in this world.



a Tonggu Momma said...

My sister's high school friend died on that plane... in that Pennsylvania field.

Julie said...

My brother was teaching school in San Francisco during all of this. You could see the airport from his class window. He said he never felt so scared in his whole life when he had to lie to grade school children and tell them everything would be alright while watching jet fighter pilots fly over head.

It's a scary world we live in.