I live on the West Coast. At about 6:30 or so on the morning of September 11th, I was awakened by the television. Since I work graveyard shift, opening my eyes before 9 A.M. just doesn't happen--even on the days I don't work.
I tried to go back to sleep, and I almost succeeded. However, I heard that a plane crashed into a building in New York. I wondered, "Am I dreaming?" I opened my eyes and saw that CNN was playing an instant replay of a plane crashing into a very tall building. I thought, "Wow, what a terrible thing! How could this have happened?" They played it over and over again. CNN was showing the first tower on fire, when all the sudden a second plane hit the second tower. I saw it live, as it was happening!
I thought an air traffic controller must have fallen asleep. I continued to watch in absolute horror. I woke my children, so they could see these events as they were happening. I don't know why. I think something inside me understood that this was important. This was something that we as a family needed to witness together.
I am an Emergency Room nurse. I have been in the ER for 9 years.
For as long as I can remember, my 8-year-old son has been telling the kids in school that I was an ER doctor. I would try to explain to him that, no honey, I was not a doctor, I am a nurse. All he knew was that I did CPR and people lived. The kids in the neighborhood that fell down and scraped their knees, he brought them to me. I "saved their life." I fix the bad stuff that happens to people.
So when his big, giant, sterling blue eyes looked up at me the morning of September 11th and said, "Mom, can you fix them?", I knew what I had to do.
I got on that plane, filled with emergency personnel (only those credentialed could fly) without a clue about what was going to happen. The plane was silent. A plane full of people and not a word was spoken. It was absolutely quiet. We were intent on making it right. I suspect that we all had the same intention--to "fix them." As it turned out, it took me three days to get from Nevada to Manhattan.
After about a thousand checkpoints, we got on a Red Cross shuttle into lower Manhattan. I had never been to New York, so I didn't have a clue what it was like to be around that many people! There were people lining the streets at least 100 deep for miles and miles! They were crying, touching our bus, begging us to stop so they could tell us about their husband or wife, crying for us to look for the people that were so important to them.
I was reminded of my beautiful son and his innocent words that September 11th morning. This huge throng of people desperately pasted posters of their families on the side of our shuttle as we went by. Some cheered us. There were cameras--lots of them. That was the first time I cried. That was the first time I understood what really happened to our nation.
This was big. In that moment, we died--and we lived. The people of New York came with offers of places to stay for us and water. Then the restaurants began bringing food. The people of New York brought food for the dogs sniffing for the dead. It became a nationwide effort and then it snowballed into a worldwide effort. We mobilized and made it work! We got the job done.
No, we will never be what we were before September 11th. Our innocence is gone. I suspect September 11th will always hurt. It will probably hurt in many ways that we don't even know about. But, the people of the United States of America are survivors. We make our own way. We always have and we always will.
Just ask my son.