And It Ends as It Began…

Last night while attending an event reception, someone standing in a circle of people tweeting on their phones looked up and said, “Osama bin Laden is dead.  Twitter knows, but we’re waiting for the President to confirm.”  In the moment I sort of dismissed it remember that Twitter also “knew” Natalee Holloway’s body was found, when in fact, it turned out to not be the case.  By the time I made it back into the hotel room lobby, CNN was showing an empty podium waiting for President Obama to confirm what social media had known for an hour.  In that moment my first reaction was, “I want to be with my husband.”

Over the last ten years we’ve all shared our Where Were You stories a million times just like our parents before us did and will continue to do so about the day President Kennedy was assassinated. But for me, last night it was more about what I was feeling on that day in September and how in tune I was to that feeling again in the moments before one of the most powerful announcements of the decade.

September 11th was three weeks after my wedding.  I was twenty-three, starting a new teaching job, newlywed, and optimistic.  We lived on the DC/Maryland line and my husband was beginning his second year working for a federal government agency, also very happy with his job and feeling good about our new life together.  My only care in the world was navigating how to teach from a cart (newbies didn’t get a classroom of their own).  Life was fantastic.

On September 11th I was standing in front of my class of 6th grade English students when I saw teachers frantically running up and down the halls.  I popped my head out and heard only “DC is under attack,” before returning to my room full of eleven and twelve year olds, still a little groggy from summer vacation, unsure of this strange lady in front of them, this new school where they had to move from classroom to classroom all day long. Part way through the period, our administrator came over the intercom to tell us some very sketchy details and ask us all to remain calm and wait for what to do next.

That’s when my eyes locked with a girl in the front row.  My stomach turned, my heart felt as though it was going to stop.  She whispered to me, “My dad works at the Pentagon.” I took her hand and said, “It’s going to be okay. Wait here,” but in my mind all I could think was, “I don’t know if it’s going to be okay, and I don’t know where my husband is right now.”  I grabbed one of the teacher’s in the hallway and asked them to take my student to find her 8th grade sister so they could wait together for word on their dad’s whereabouts.  As soon as class ended, I ran to a team member’s room and watched as the second tower fell, watched as the Pentagon burned.  No one could get through to their spouses in downtown DC.  None of us knew where our loved ones were.

All I wanted was to be with my husband.

It would be many, many hours until I knew that my husband was okay once he finally made it out of the city, the federal government dismissing in waves, unsure of the safety of the metro, not wanting to cause a widespread panic.  It would be days before we went back to school and work, the nation unsure what to do next, the city in shock.  And as we now know, it would be nearly ten years before justice would be served to the man who began this journey for us all.  So tomorrow when I see my husband again, it will be as if in some way we’ve come full circle.  And it will end as it began…

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  • Martina Ferguson

    Very powerful, Amy.
    I remember that day very clearly as well. In a lot of ways my story is similiar. I was finishing my student teaching in Pa, and my fiance (now my husband) was working in NYC. We were engaged to be married that following summer (Aug 2002). Anyway, it was hours before I knew that he was okay.
    We were ecstatic to hear the news last night that Osama had been killed.

  • I can see why the initial news of that day struck you so hard. Being so close to DC, your husband there, students with parents there, and the general uncertainty within your school. I sure hope that girl’s dad was okay.

    I was riding in my car that morning when I heard about it on the radio. I started making phone calls to people.

    Last night, I was watching a baseball game on TV at home when I heard about Bin Laden.

  • Amy

    Update: I’ve had a few people ask me about the little girl in my class. It turned out that her dad was out of the building for a meeting and was completely fine. Thank you for asking!

  • We had just moved to a new town, and I had traveled back to our former city for an ob/gyn appointment with my first pregnancy. My mother and I were talking that morning, and my SIL called to see if we had heard what was going on. Her husband, my brother, was in NYC and saw one of the towers fall. My father was across the street from the White House. It was hours before we heard from either of them.

    I knew my mother and SIL had so much more to fret about, but I could NOT WAIT to drive the 2 1/2 hours to get to my husband.

    Thanks for writing this, it brought back very powerful memories.

  • Wow Amy.
    Yes.. thanks for mentioning the little girl. I was also going to ask if her father was ok.

  • I can’t even imagine having been there and explaining what was happening to the students. Glad your husband made it out OK.

  • What a great post! Really makes me stop and think about whats important. And I could use all of that I can get 🙂 What a scary day! I think most of America felt completely vulnerable.

  • […] written about September 11th, 2001, before both at Lifetime Moms and here on Resourceful Mommy.  But today I am trying desperately to remember September 10th, […]