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We Alll Remember Where We Were

As it was for most of us, my September 11, 2001 began like any routine work/school day. I was a single mom living in the heart of Hana-Maui, trying to get an eight year old out of bed, into school clothes and out the door.   Just as I began my “Get ready or else” speech, my friend and next door neighbor phoned.

“Did you see the news?”

“Uh no, why?”

“A plane flew into that building, that tower on the mainland. Go look, it’s on TV right now.”

Knowing we were running late, I didn’t really want to take the time to watch a news bulletin  about an obscure event that didn’t pertain to my life, but it sounded important to her.  So I went into my bedroom where my son had sneaked off to watch TV, and wrestled the remote away from him.  I saw footage of the plane hit and thought wow, how terrible for the pilot and for the people on those floors.  I said as much to my friend on the phone.  She simply replied, “Keep watching.”

So I watched.  And I watched it again.  And again.  As the dreadfulness of what I was watching began to sink in, the phone calls began.  Is there school?  Is it cancelled?  I called Hana School and was told it was cancelled.  Got a call back saying, no, it’s not cancelled.  By this time we knew it appeared to be terroristic action and we knew about not only New York but also the Pentagon.  And more horrific for me personally, we knew about the downed flight in Pennsylvania, less than an hour from where I grew up.  Later, I learned that my family would find bits of charred material and ash in their yard for weeks after.  But at the time, I mainly tried to stay focused and not panic.  Like the rest of us, I had about 50 – 50 success at that.  It took days to get through to key family members and friends, until we were all accounted for.

I looked at my son, sitting in the corner of my king sized bed, in the corner of my bedroom, in the innermost part of my house and all I could think of was how much I wanted to push him deeper into that corner and keep him there.  Safe, in our house, away from the world, away from things like exploding airplanes and destroyed buildings and people who might hate him through no fault of his own.   In my twenty years of life in Hana, I had never been so grateful for the secluded, sheltered little town as I was at that moment.

“So Mom, is there school today or not?”

“I don’t know but you’re staying home,” silently adding to myself ‘forever, if I have my way.’

As the days and weeks unfolded, I cried with the world, grieved the losses of those affected, made the contributions and uncharacteristically looked to our leaders for direction.  And in recent years I’ve become friends with survivors, and have learned about it from their unique perspective. But in those first moments, my visceral reaction to our national tragedy was that of a mom, plain and simple.

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