Where were you… 9/11/2001

It’s familiar in the most painful way, this need to wring my thoughts out onto the page, that I might see them clearer, that I might remember that day and pay my respects to those who lost their lives. But again, like so many times in the last decade…I’m hesitant because I didn’t lose anyone in the terror that was Sept.11, 2001.

I wasn’t even present, not physically. I was miles away, having just finished my morning devotion and clicked on the TV in time to see some news anchor, whose face and name I’ve long forgotten, musing aloud as to the nature of a developing incident in the heart of New York City. A plane had struck the north tower and there were more questions than answers. 

The dread that filled my stomach as the second plane struck wasn’t tied to concerns about the whereabouts of friends and family, but an empathic kick in the gut for thousands of strangers combined with the instantaneous awareness that the world had just changed forever.

Moments later, my heart crumbled along with the massive towers, but I didn’t feel the earth shake beneath me and I didn’t cover my face to keep from choking on the enveloping clouds of dust.

I didn’t run towards the burning towers to help–

or away from the madness towards safety.

These are the reasons I’m always hesitant to write about that hellish day, wondering if it wouldn’t be best to leave such sensitive memories to those who lived it in real-time, or at least to those who can memorialize it with more eloquence.

And yet, I must write precisely because I was there. I may have been safe in my own living room, clutching the remote in one hand and the phone in the other, crying buckets and trying instinctively to locate all my loved ones, but I was there. Even now, as I sit here typing, those memories flood back as vivid as ever, bringing to mind unbidden images of unspeakable horror. 

I write to remember a time when our elected officials stood on the Capitol and pledged their allegiance anew,  when red and blue weren’t fighting words, but proud colors waving on flags that waved from sea to shining sea. A time when a cross could rise from the painful debris like the beacon of hope it will always be– instead of one more bone of contention between those who love His name and those who don’t want to hear it.

I write because I know that the best of wordsmiths will never be able to wrap enough words around the worst terrorist attack ever carried out on American soil and because my memories as one of those Americans matters, as do yours.

So, please tell me, where were you when the world changed forever?

Tonight, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.” –President George W. Bush September 11, 2001


About Shellie Rushing Tomlinson

Known as The Belle of All Things Southern, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson is a national best-selling author, speaker, radio host, and columnist from Louisiana.
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6 Responses to Where were you… 9/11/2001

  1. Frank says:

    I had been out tending to who knows what and walked back into the front office on the way back to my office in the kitchen. The television was on, but the sound wasn’t. Smoke coming from one of the towers caught my eye and I told everyone to look, that the world trade center was on fire. Before we could bring up the sound I saw a second plane come into the picture and strike the second building. My first thought was that a news airplane circling the area had accidently hit the other tower… but it wasn’t to be. Most of the rest of that day was a blur. A blur of emotions and reactions. I remember us going full into ‘Police mode’ and trying to co-ordinate protecting the bridges and highways and railways of the area. I remember seeing a friend of mine in his crop duster flying back and forth overhead long after we had heard all planes were grounded, and I remember the thought going through my head that he might be shot down… strange as it seems now. I remember the awkward pride I felt that the President had come into Barksdale, as if our state offered some shelter from the storm. I remember the pride that rose up over our country over the next few days and weeks. How proud we were to be American. The unity. The flags.
    I remember also the enuendo a few months later that those few moments our President sat in that classroom with those children was somehow supposedly showing himself to be indecisive. I’m still mad about that. Mad that there are snakes in the grass. Mad that our enemies don’t always come from abroad.

  2. Jeanie McMahon says:

    It was my day off and I was sleeping in in Flemington, NJ 90 minutes from New York City. I heard the phone ring and decided to get up and retrieve the message, it was from my husband saying” By now you must know about the attacks on NY,& DC . Go to Katie’s school, (my step-daughter) and bring her home. I’ll be home as soon as I can.” I looked out the window at the perfectly crisp and clear September Fall day and thought, my husband must have lost his mind; and then I turned on the television. I tried to call back my husband but all the phone lines were tied up. So I went to Katie’s school to get her. The poor thing was in tears because she did not know if her father was working in NY City or NJ that day; and thought the worst if I was coming to get her. Luckily Bob was working in NJ on his Birthday September 11th, and did not have to go through the horror that was unfolding there. When he did get home we all huddled by the TV set and watched over and over, the unthinkable happen here in our city New York in our Country USA. We have a niece Lena who was in DC and had to be evacuated from the Pentagone building, who had just gone through the Anthrax scare. So we were concerned for her safety also.
    I remember very shortly after the first news report, that I sprang up and put out our American Flag and hung it on our front porch. I felt so angry that any other people or Nation would try to take my United Sates of America away from us, that I would have gladly killed Bin Laden myself.
    And I am the most peaceful old hippie lady you will ever find. But not that night.

  3. Great post Shellie. I remember I was on my way to work that morning all was was thinking was what a beautiful blue sky…. It was a crisp Central New York morning. When I arrived two of my coworkers were listening to the radio-the first tower had been hit. I remember saying “how could the pilot not have seen the tower”-I couldn’t imagine that anyone would do something like that on purpose…

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