Monday, September 12, 2011

Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?

The Attack on Pearl Harbor. The Moon Landing. John F Kennedy's Assassination. The Challenger Explosion. 

All flashbulb memories of the past, where the mind seems to almost take a picture of the moment and circumstances in which you learned the news.

For my generation, It's the World Trade Center attacks.

I would be lying if I said that before September 11, 2001 I was even aware the World Trade Center towers existed, much less their importance. I had traveled to many different fun places growing up, but we never spent much time in big cities. To give you perspective, I remember the first time I drove through Birmingham, Alabama, I was certain it was the biggest city in the country. To me they were all just skyscrapers.
Skyline pre-September 11
I was a senior at Cullman High School, sitting in my English/Lit class trying to pay attention to what I'm pretty sure was yet another paper that was due. Sometime around 8:30 that morning, class was interrupted and our teacher was told that "they'd hit the Pentagon". Well, I may not have ever heard of the World Trade Center, but gosh dangit I'm no uneducated redneck either-- I know what the Pentagon is.

We all kind of looked at each other confused and a little freaked out, and filed our way into the neighboring history teacher's classroom because he had the TV on. I remember sitting on the floor crunched in with my other classmates, watching the replays of the second plane hitting the second tower, and noticing all the reporters on CNN in disarray.

I was scared because the buildings were on fire, but still didn't quite understand the importance of the towers, and didn't understand the idea of terrorism in the USA and especially a terrorist attack. I believed that they'd put out the fires on those floors, and they'd rebuild and everything would be normal within a month's time.

Then about 20 minutes later, one of the towers fell. That was the moment that startled me to the core.

NYC Mayor Giuliani, President George W Bush and New York Gov Pataki

I thought about parents, and my younger sister and younger brother, wondering if they had heard. I thought about my grandparents, because I knew they traveled the country and hoped they weren't anywhere near the city. I thought about my Uncle, who at the time was a fireman in a different state, and hoped he didn't know anyone personally that had sacrificed their lives. Then I felt guilty because I was spared, while so many others lost so much.

A few weeks later, one of my favorite country artists of all time, Alan Jackson, sang a beautiful song about the attacks at the Country Music Awards.I'm fairly certain that there wasn't a dry eye to be found at the Grand Ole Opry that night.

Much like my friend Kate, I tried to be as normal as possible yesterday. I caught some of the memorial services, but you have to remember it was the first NFL Sunday, so ESPN was on by 10am and we were at the Eagles fan club watching the game by 1:00. 


I drank a beer. I ate a burger. I sang the Eagle's fight song four times. I ooo'd and aaah'd over Cam Newton's 422 yards. I watched replays of Auburn's close win over Mississippi State from Saturday. I checked my fantasy stats, only to be angry at myself for not replacing Chris Johnson with Tolbert (who sat on my bench and got 3 touchdowns).

I had a good old-fashioned American Sunday yesterday, and gave thanks at the end of the night that I live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Before and After
I would have never imagined that my then 12 year old "baby" brother would be fighting for our country 10 years later. I would have never imagined that on my girls weekend trip to New York City next month that we'd be visiting a memorial spanning 16 acres in the middle of  lower Manhattan. I would have never imagined that now every time I board a flight, and someone walks to the front of the plane, a hint of awareness overcomes me. And I never realized that I'd truly know first hand what it really means to be an American and fight for our freedom.

God Bless the USA! 


  1. Great post, Mary. One thing, FDR wasn't assassinated. I think you mean John F. Kennedy.

  2. Ha....yes I do! Shows my generation and knowledge of those past events ;) Thanks for pointing that out!!

  3. Hey now, I'm only 2 years older than you, little cousin. ;)