Thursday, September 10, 2009

Where Were YOU When the World Stopped Turning?

It was a Tuesday that started like any other. I jumped out of my top bunk and hurried off to class, making small talk with my roommate of just two weeks.
I arrived to class early, as all good students do, and took my seat. Sociology 101. A kid who hadn't been on time yet that semester, walked in about 10 minutes late and sat beside me. He turned around and said something to the student behind him about an airplane hitting a building in New York. How crazy.
I left class, and made the journey across campus to the Center for Performing Arts to attend my Women's Choir class. It seemed like every student I passed was on their cell phone. When I entered the CPA, there were students gathered around a television in the lobby. Some of them were crying, some were staring blankly. I remember vividly that no one was talking. I didn't dare ask what was happening, but walked to my classroom and waited to be told. I don't remember feeling anything at this point, because I just didn't know what was going on.
When I left class, the campus was eerily quiet. Lots of students were still on their cell phones, classes had been cancelled for the rest of the day, and the Student Union was shutting down. I walked back across campus to my dorm, and walked up to the elevator. When the elevator doors opened to take me to the 13th floor, there stood a lone young man, a college freshman. He was wearing his uniform, and he looked brave. I asked him where he was going, and he replied "I don't know, but they told me to come".
My heart dropped. Just as it has done again, recalling the look on his face. A look that said "I will do what I have to so that you are safe tonight". I felt safe just encountering him.
The elevator could not get to my floor fast enough. I walked down the hallway, past one open door after another. Some rooms had gathered many students, other rooms were nearly empty.
My roommate was in our room, and when I walked in, we bearly spoke to each other, but I know I felt connected to her. Our Nation had just experienced a tragedy, and we were in it together. We joined other friends in a room across campus, where we watched the events 9/11 unfold, prayed, and contacted our families. We had hardly known each other, and yet, we were united. All Americans were united.
There was a prayer vigil organized and students of all religions joined together in the middle of the campus to cry out to God, asking why and how and pleading for safety.
The rest of the week was a complete blur. I don't remember when classes started again, I don't remember watching anything else on television. I don't remember what I was wearing. But I know where I was, and who I was with. And I remember how I felt.
I felt pride that our country stood together. I felt complete sadness that so many people lost their lives. Heartbroken that wives went to bed without their husbands, children without their mothers, parents without their children. Civilians, Military Men and Women, the Men and Women of the New York Fire and Police Departments, all answered the call, to defend freedom, and protect lives.
And today, I feel pride. Pride for My Country. Pride for My Brother, My Uncle, My Brother-in-law, who have all served in Operation Freedom. Many others like them, who put on their brave face, and served. Away from their families, away from a comfortable bed, air conditioning, the security of sleeping at night. They missed Christmases, Birthday's, Weddings. They missed milestones in their children's lives, celebrating anniversaries with their spouses.
I cannot express my gratitude. I have no words for the way I feel. My heart is overflowing with appreciation for the sacrifices made for my safety! My heart overflows with pride that people I love are brave and selfless!
They sacrifice for me. And for you. And for us. And they are the reason I can sleep tonight, knowing well that I live in the best country in the world.
"I have answered my nation's call.
I am a warrior.
I defend my country with my life.
I will not falter.
I will not fail."
(I thought long and hard about posting pictures of my family and friends in the military here, but am so concerned with their protection. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Thank you for sending your pictures to me. )
I would love to hear where you were on 9/11/01, or if you have loved ones in the military. I think it is crucial that we always remember.

10 comments:

livinginagirlsworld said...

Thank you to your family who has served. It's a hard road for both the one serving and for the one at home.
Here's my "remember when"
http://livinginagirlsworld.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/9-11/

Shealynn Benner said...

My uncle is in the military, and has been deployed to Iraq a few times. I will be forever grateful for those men and woman that give up everything for our freedom. There are just no words to express enough gratitude!

Thanks for sharing!

Mom said...

Great post, Natalie.
I will never forget!
You will never know the fear I had for you in Toledo. There was talk of Toledo being "on the list" because of the nuclear plant. I was glad to get you home and wrap my arms around you.
You can post papa's photo. He would be proud.

Tamara said...

The post title alone had me in tear. I'd like to thank your family for their service for us.

Erin said...

I was in college, too. I was in speech class, and a boy gave a speech about carpe diem, siezing the day because you never know when it might be your last. When I left class, I noticed two things: how beautiful it was outside with a blue sky and fluffy clouds and two, how deserted campus was. When I walked into my dorm, the TV in the common room was on, and I heard plane and thought there was just a plane crash. When I got back upstairs, my suitemate was sitting blank in front of the TV, and then she filled me in.

Erin said...

I was in college, too. I was in speech class, and a boy gave a speech about carpe diem, siezing the day because you never know when it might be your last. When I left class, I noticed two things: how beautiful it was outside with a blue sky and fluffy clouds and two, how deserted campus was. When I walked into my dorm, the TV in the common room was on, and I heard plane and thought there was just a plane crash. When I got back upstairs, my suitemate was sitting blank in front of the TV, and then she filled me in.

lizbaker said...

I was walking to Spanish class in University Hall when I saw the first plane hit while walking through the Student Union. My friend and I just thought it was a fluke. After class, we learned all that was going on. I layed in my room, watching the news and crying for all the people.

At our next Spanish class, our teacher opened with the question, "What did you do after class on Tuesday?" Everyone had the same answer. Went to my room, watched the news and called my mom.

3 Little Snaps said...

Great post! I wrote a similar one!
http://3littlesnaps.blogspot.com/

Bacardi Mama said...

I was teaching a class of preschoolers. As luck would have it, our computer system was down and we don't have a tv in the classroom. A preschool mom told us what was going on when she dropped off her child. It made it even more scary to have no connection to the outside world. My nephew, who was a senior at the time enlisted with several of his friends and were deployed to Irag the following year. I was so proud, but so scared for him. It takes such a special person to put their lives above others. Their class graduation song was "Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty Luckily, he came home safe. Thank you for a great post.

Mimi's Toes said...

Thank you for such a special post. You said it all. I was sitting at my desk at work when my boss's mom called and told me. I was frozen and couldn't follow the rest of my co-workers who were going to the conference room to turn on the t.v. to watch it unfold. I just sat at my desk praying for everyone, sort of in shock. I have cousins serving our Country. I would also like to thank them from the bottom of my heart for their service.