Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11 I was standing in line ...

10 years ago on the morning of September 11th I was standing in line in at the Post Office waiting to buy stamps.

The last guy entering the line started talking about hearing something on the radio about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. We in line reacted more like Robert De Niro, “You talking to Me?” and refocused our impatient glares on postal clerks.

Patti’s Multiple Sclerosis progression both physically and cognitively even 10 years ago had driven a coffin nail in home care help and I had decided to try to juggle it all; full time homecare, basically single parenting and somehow work.

Frankly from a morning of getting Patti and Megan up and dropping Megan at middle school, I was overwhelmed and it wasn’t even 9 AM. Living then in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC my mind was in a thousand places waiting in line that morning.  

Returning home to care for Patti who was watching morning TV, I asked her about it. She was aware of no plane crash. Even then with her MS memory loss milder I still could not be sure whether she simply had forgotten or it was not news, it did after all seem incredulous.

Turning my attention to the TV – the world changed before my eyes.  A second plane hit the world Trade Center, 30 minutes later a third plane crashes into the Pentagon (less than 10 miles away as a plane flies), a forth plane crashes in Pennsylvania as passengers battle terrorists.

Get our daughter from school was my knee jerk reaction. Calling the Principal she explained all were safe and all classes were watching TV news together. Where better to process the unimaginable than with peers and teachers? If anything changed or Megan wanted to come home, she would call me. I couldn’t ask for more than that.

Somewhere in the timeline we nearly jumped out of our skins as our entire house shook from sonic booms as air force jets from nearby Andrews AFB roared into the skies over Washington DC.

Caregiving for perhaps the only day in 21 years became secondary.

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick Leer 
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  1. We will all have those memories of where we were when we heard the news but you guys being close to the area had to play heavily into your emotions and thoughts that day, Patrick. I know my sister/family living 15 minutes out of DC suffered more of an impact of that day than me/family did in Montana over 2000 miles away. Truly a sad day that will stand in our history and hearts forever.


  2. Like you, I have been looking back 10 years and remembering. Unlike you, we didn't know then that Don had MS, and life seemed to be travelling along pretty normally, albeit with some warning signs. It's a day that everybody remembers vividly even here in Australia, and I liked reading your memories of the day. What a wise teacher, to deal with it so sensitively with the class.

  3. I can't imagine being so close to Washington on that day. I was in Oklahoma City the day of the Murrah bombing only one building away. That day changed me forever and it pales in contrast to the Twin Towers.

  4. Barb, it is interesting how we do frame even historic benchmarks in terms of progression of MS. And yes, so many teachers in so many classrooms that day really had to teach the unteachable.

  5. Oklhdan! Oh my God to have been so close to the Oklahoma City bombing back when we all were so naive about terrorism whether domestic or foreign.

  6. Betty, I confess that proximity thing really did change the way we paid attention that day. TV news can be so detached even though it is putting you right there. But when a plane crashes into a building less than 10 miles away - oh! your brain kicks in differently - it's real!

  7. The very odd thing about the quiet skies in DC followed by the patrolling AF jets was that I found the planes soothing in a way. My students were spooked, however it sounded "like home" to me as I grew up in Midwest City, OK, home of Tinker Air Force Base. It felt like Saturday morning practice flights were overhead.

    I was discussing this anniversary with my mother (whose Pentagon office was one of the ones temporarily empty for renovations which were almost complete at the time). Because of the experience in OKC in 1995 where she was still living and working at the time, her immediate response was one of action. She asked for permission first, then headed home while her military chain of command was in shock.

    The Murrah building bombing was much too close to home. I had relatives who worked in that building. One cousin had just left on an errand and was passing on the nearest highway. One cousin was going to be late to work because her son was fussy and getting sick. The little guy would normally have been in the childcare center. One uncle's car was covered in debris. And my father's house still has a crack in the wall from the force of the explosion.

    I eagerly waited for an official head-count of family and friends on that day. While I didn't lose any family, our family lost friends.

  8. Lisa, yes when those Air Force jets finally appeared over Washington it certainly was reassuring though we both could have done without the first unexpected sonic boom from take off. :-)


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