Where I Was on 9/11
I was supposed to go to a women’s prayer meeting that morning at the YMCA. I had been up late studying so I had decided to play hooky from the prayer meeting and sleep in a little before going to class instead.
I was 22 and in my next-to-last semester of college. I was still living at home, in what I now can see was a protective, safe, idealistic bubble.
My mom came in my room a little while after I had called to tell them I wouldn’t be coming to the prayer meeting, and it annoyed me. I had just dropped back off to sleep. She was watching the news and something strange had happened. What everyone thought to be a small airplane had just “accidentally” crashed into the World Trade Center in NYC. Initially I brushed her off, rolled back over, and went back to sleep…not thinking too much about it. I was young and clueless and had virtually no life experience and had never even been to New York City. I wasn’t even entirely sure which building the World Trade Center was. I was sure my mom was overreacting and it was nothing. So I went back to sleep.
About 20 minutes later, my mom burst into my room. It was so sudden and urgent, I shot straight up in bed, sleep forgotten. I knew something was really wrong.
“Another plane just hit the other tower of the World Trade Center. We’re under attack.”
At 22, I didn’t really know what that meant…or at least I didn’t fully grasp it. All I knew at that moment was that the prayer meeting I had planned to skip was right where I needed to be.
I jumped out of bed and rushed through my getting ready rituals to make it to the YMCA, showing up to the meeting about a half hour late. I’ll never forget walking into the Y to that day and being hit by a wall of silence. No one was working out. No children were laughing and playing. No basketballs were bouncing. Everyone was huddled around every TV in the building, staring at the screen in shock. No one was saying a word.
We watched in horror that day as the first tower fell, and then the second. Still no one spoke. Tears ran down silent faces. People hugged without words. And in the YMCA that day, strangers became not just friends…but family. Walls between us all dropped. Our differences failed to matter. Our prayer group was there to pray, some people were there to work out, some to work…but instead, we stood silently, shoulder to shoulder, watching the world that we knew crumble around us all. And we held each other up.
In the midst of it all, a young lady who worked at the Y came into the room where our prayer group was huddled. She looked completely bereft, and you could see her pain and fear went beyond the common grief we were all experiencing. She began to tell us her story in a shaking voice. Her dad worked at the Pentagon, and she had been on the phone with him when the plane hit. Their call had gotten disconnected and she hadn’t been able to get back in touch with him. All the way in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, here stood someone directly and possibly forever impacted by the horrors of that day.
Our prayer group immediately circled around the young lady and began to pray for her. We began to ask God to cover her father and get him out of the building safely. To give his young daughter comfort. To bind all the wounds of the injured and to be with the families of the fallen and to help the rest of us know how to minister to those directly impacted by the attacks.
When we all left the Y that day, both of the World Trade Center towers were in rubble. And the young lady still hadn’t heard from her dad at the Pentagon. I remember walking out into the beautiful sunshine and seeing the gigantic American flag above the YMCA waving in the breeze so beautiful, so proud, so hopeful. And though my childhood and my safe protective bubble had been badly bruised and my heart broken, that flag reminded me that in the midst of the greatest loss lies the potential for the greatest miracles. That hope is never lost. That hate never gets the last word.
A week later, after the smoke had cleared, the panic had calmed, and the loss to our country had begun to sink in…I stopped by the YMCA to check on the young lady whose dad had been in the Pentagon. She wasn’t there that day, but her co-worker told me that her dad had gotten out of the building safely and uninjured. And for the first time in a week, I smiled.
9/11. Never forget.
Where were you that day?