Monday, September 24, 2012

Never Forget

9/11/12: The 11th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in American history, and also the day my husband, children and I boarded a flight to New Hampshire. As we shared with friends and family our vacation plans, the date of our outgoing flight was met with questioning and surprised looks and many comments like "You're flying on September eleventh?!?!? I have to admit I was a tiny bit nervous about the date, but more so that I would be flying with two small children. I had no idea what an effect the date would have on me.

While packing and preparing to leave, I wondered if security would be heightened on the anniversary of such a horrific day, and was slightly obsessed with arriving to the airport early. I thought of the many passengers on those four fateful flights, packing their suitcases and carry-ons, oblivious to the events that were about to unfold. Those passengers were not consumed with double checking the list of banned items, or carefully selecting containers that hold only 3 oz of liquids.

The night before our flight, I watched the 9/11 specials that were aired- some new, many I had seen before, and the events of that day were fresh in my mind as we drove to the airport. We pulled into the economy parking garage, unloaded enough luggage for 10 people and headed for the shuttle. Imagine my surprise when we got off the elevator and the shuttle was sitting there as if waiting for us. What luck! I wondered how many people that day were also running ahead of schedule- also considering themselves lucky, if only for the moment.

We breezed through security even though I forgot to bag the liquids, and remove the baby food from the carry-ons. When I was pulled aside to have my hands tested for bomb making materials, it reminded me how much has changed since that day 11 years ago. Fifteen years ago, I wouldn't have had to remove the sealed baby food containers from my diaper bag to be tested. My children's sippy cups would not have been tested for peroxide. I could have carried nail clippers, 4 oz of hand sanitizer and a nail file in my purse.

As I sat at our gate (nearly 2 hours early), I looked around at others waiting for their flights. Families heading home from or to vacation, men and women traveling for business and pleasure. Folks with laptops, IPads, IPhones, and E-Readers lost in their own worlds oblivious to those around them. I thought of the victims and families affected by 9/11, whose morning that day probably started a lot like mine, and silently said a prayer for them.

The Captain and the Big One stood at the windows and watched the planes take off and land. I sat with the little one and attempted to keep tiny little hands off my laptop while I checked facebook. After tiring of the planes, the Big One took up residence in one of the work stations with a payphone, ate Cheez-its and fielded very important phone calls from Dora, Alicia and Diego.

In an effort to kill time we went looking for the play area that two years ago allowed the Big One to run off some energy, only to find it had been moved and significantly downgraded. Nonetheless it served it's purpose and before we knew it, the boarding call for our flight was made.

Later, while we flew over NYC, the clouds cleared and I was able to see NYC skyline. It was the first time I had seen it from the air without the Twin Towers. As I leaned back in my seat and pointed the skyline out to the Captain, I thought of the last time I had seen the city. It was about a week after 9/11. I was flying over and the pilot made the announcement that we were flying over the New York City.  As I looked out my window, through the clouds I could see thick black smoke billowing up from where the towers once stood.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the woman in the seat behind me draw the shade.  As I stared out the window in disbelief, I heard the woman behind me crying. As I looked around, I noticed several people were crying. Whether they had lost someone they loved or were just moved by the loss our nation suffered I will never know.

The tragedy that was 9/11 weighed heavy on my mind throughout our preparations and on our flight. Much like the rest of the world, I will never forget where I was when I heard the tragic news of 9/11. For days I was glued to the television, in shock, watching the same footage over and over, but that moment on the plane was what made the surreal real. The memory of the billowing smoke and the crying woman that drew the shade will forever be burned in my mind.

We had a great flight and made it to our destination without incident. Sadly, eleven years ago, the passengers of four flights, boarded a plane of terror and never made it to their destinations. Although, I didn't personally know any of the nearly 3,000 victims, I feel connected to that tragedy because of the experience of that one flight. My heart goes out to the families, and I will "never forget".

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