Ben had just turned one years old. We had recently flown to North Carolina to visit my parents and celebrate his 1st birthday.
Ben has been such an easy kid. I can't say the same about his babyhood...he was rough! He was colicky and would get mad and bang his head against the floor. He wasn't speaking yet and there were hints from our pediatrician that he was speech delayed and possibly at risk for autism. It was a frustrating time at home.
We were at home trying to get into a routine. I was still working at the time - teaching college level classes at a local technical school. I spent some days on campus teaching in person. And some days, I spent working at home teaching online, piloting one of the first distance education degree programs offered in the country. Ben spent about 6 hours a day at a home daycare about 10 houses away. I was so grateful to have found a nice babysitter who lived nearby. When I worked from home, it was nice to know he was a few houses away if I just wanted to pick him up early.
Anyway, Ben being the fussy baby that he was, would wake up and I would plant him in front of the television in my room to watch his favorite show, Teletubbies. It was the dumbest show I'd ever seen but that kid loved it. He would sit mesmerized the entire time. So I would take that time to shower and dress before we would head downstairs for breakfast. I never watched the news or listened to radio in the morning. We would turn on PBS kids and that was it.
So, Joe and I were getting ready for work, and the phone rang, which in and of itself was odd to be getting a phone call early in the morning. Joe's brother called and asked us if we had the news on. He proceeded to tell us a plane had hit the World Trade Center and we should turn it on. I was confused and a bit taken aback and we turned the television much to Ben's dismay. Sure enough, they showed the towers and one of them had smoke billowing out. At that point, it appeared to be an accident or that is what they were reporting. We had it on and were still trying to get ready and then...the second plane came in. I think we all stopped at that point. And, we sat down. Like so many others, we were transfixed by the events as they unfolded...and horrified.
As crazy as it seems, I still walked Ben over to his daycare provider's home because I don't think I fully grasped what was going on. It seemed so unreal. I continued to watch and then I received a phone call that we should stay home from work. I just sat and watched the news and tried to make sense of it. And then, I started to panic because when they said that the plane that hit the Pentagon came from Dulles, I remembered my mom was traveling to Washington DC for work (NCIS) and mentioned flying in and out of Dulles. I didn't know the dates though. I knew it was about that time. I tried to call her and there was no answer. I tried her cell phone, her work phone and the home phone. No answer. I went to the daycare provider's home and picked my son up. I just wanted to hold him and be home with him while I waited and hoped to hear back from my mom.
Eventually I heard from my stepdad that she was okay - she was in North Carolina on base and the base was on lockdown. But she was okay. I thought about my many relatives that lived in Maryland with several working for the government and I worried and held my son tight. I thought about the people I didn't know who were in the towers when they fell. And I wondered what kind of world we had brought a child into.
Perhaps the things I remember most about that day and the days that followed was the silence. The air was still without planes. In Phoenix, you can see so far out that most days you can see a plane in the air at any given time. It was so still and odd and quiet. No one was in the air. Barely anyone was in their cars driving to work or all those ordinary places. It was quiet and still.
The occasional break of the silence came when the jets from Luke Air Force Base rolled by in formation patrolling the skies. I remember many a time of looking up at them and being grateful for their noise and their watch. I still feel that way whenever they are out and about 11 years later. Just like I felt that way every time we vacationed on Top Sail Island in North Carolina and watched the jets go by or saw a naval ship out at sea in the ocean while we played in the waves, a few short miles from Camp Lejeune. Seeing and hearing those jets makes me thankful that there are brave people in this country that are willing to fight for freedom so I can sit on a beach with my children and enjoy that freedom.
Thank you to them and to all those emergency personnel who risk their lives every day to save ours.