My 5 year old was just a few days away from starting Kindergarten. Luckily, I had trained him well enough to pour cereal and turn on cartoons for he and his 2 year old sister as I caught up on my beauty sleep!
I remember the clock read 7:58 (Central time) and the phone rang. I remember cursing my husband in my mind for dare waking me out of my slumber before my babysitter, Dora the Explorer's time was up. I'm sure my tone of voice was not welcoming to my neighbor, a friend and fellow stay at home mom, who was actually on the other end of the phone.
She asked if I was watching TV. I recall trying to 'play off' the fact that I was sound asleep while my kids fend for themselves. I'm, uh, cleaning, the television is on Nickelodeon, but no, I'm not watching it, why?
She goes on to say that she assumed that I was watching kid's TV, like her, and that I probably had no idea of what was going on. Her husband had just called her and told her to turn on the news- that the World Trade Center had just been hit by an airplane.
Let me say that I was relatively young, very naive, non-political and a horribly ignorant Midwestern. I didn't even know what the World Trade Center was. I turned on the TV and was immediately enthralled in the tragedy. I had no idea what any of it meant, at that point, but I couldn't take my eyes off of it and wanted to learn.
My husband called shortly after my neighbor. He had been in a class and was given a 15 minute break and caught the news. He is a history nut and a policeman. I remember two things he said... 1.) The people in this class don't care, they don't get it! 2.) You know this means we're at war, right?
He was horribly disturbed by the fact that his class continued on after a short break- even with the knowledge of what had happened. This was still shortly after the first plane hit. There were still reporters justifying the acts as 'a possible accident'. I didn't know any better, they could have been right, for all I knew. But, my husband, the conspiracy theorist, knew- from that first moment. I dismissed him, at first, as I usually do. Then, I watched the second plane hit as I was living and breathing!
The news commentators slowly began unraveling the dark, ugly truth that we have all come to know today. I sat in front of the television for 48 hours straight- I may have dozed off for a couple hours here and there, but as the facts, personal stories, and gritty emotion poured out of, otherwise monotonous anchors, I couldn't pull myself away.
In my little part of the world, I was relatively unscathed, on a personal basis. However, one of my neighbors, Kelly, had a brother that had a business meeting at the World Trade Center that morning. He had flown from Kansas City that morning and Kelly had spoken to him after the first plane hit- all was well. He hadn't arrived at the designation, yet, but hung around and still planned to make his meeting, after all had been cleared.
After the second plane hit, Kelly felt confident that he was out of harm's way. She still made efforts to call him on his cell phone to make sure. A stranger answered his cell phone which was lying on the streets of New York. Some members of her family spent the next week in New York hospitals in the 'search' for the missing and unidentified that we all so eerily remember being pasted up and down the city's scape. Sadly, within days, they learned that he had been hit on the street by a large piece of flying debris from the second plane's entrance and killed.
I remember our neighborhood having a candlelight vigil and Kelly breaking down and falling to her knees. I remember all of us rushing to help her up and comfort her, as nearly impossible as that was. I remember the goose bumps, the tears, and the helplessness I felt were overwhelming. I remember the new found feeling of patriotism- the pride I felt with every flag that lined our streets. I remember the anger and the uncertainty of our future as Americans.
I cried a lot and hugged my kids more. This was my "JFK" moment. I would always know "where I was when...".