I was almost two months pregnant and flying with my 14 month old daughter to New York on 9/11. The flight from Mississippi to North Carolina went smoothly, but as we arrived at the gate to make our connecting flight to New York, flights had been delayed. One tower of the World Trade Centers had been hit by a plane.
Every eye at the gate was glued to the overhead TVs as the report came in that another had been hit. I remember saying to the man beside me “That was no accident.” I became hyper-focused on my daughter and then worried that my husband may have gotten up and gone into the city that day. He was working in mid-town, but I didn’t want him anywhere near what was going on. To my relief, when I called, he was still at his dad’s in Westchester County.
Sometime later, I was standing in a line trying to re-book my flight when a news reporter came up to interview me. Up until that moment, everything had been surreal, but as soon as she started asking questions, it sunk in that someone had purposely sought to kill innocent people just going about their daily routine. I remember saying something like “How could anyone do something like that?” and then I looked down at my sweet, unsuspecting, energetic child, who just wanted to run around the airport and play. I burst into tears in front of the reporter and camera.
Luckily I found a nearby hotel that had a room and a shuttle. The next day I returned to the airport to wait with every other trapped passenger, most of whom had stayed the night on the airport floors. In one of the lines an airport employee said she saw me on the news the night before. It’s probably a good thing I did not catch that news report because I’m sure I looked hideous.
There were many heroes that day, average citizens helping others, the firemen and the police and countless others. I had my own personal heroes that day too. The lady at the US Airways ticket counter that found a package of emergency baby supplies for a scared young mom and the numerous American Red Cross volunteers that stayed at the airport to hand out toothbrushes, water and necessities for all the stranded and terrified people. They gave my daughter a teddy bear that probably reassured me more than it did her.
Since 9/11, my charity of choice has been the American Red Cross because I have seen them in action and I know their work is worthwhile. The money you give today may not be put to use right away, but it will go to help others when an emergency does arrive.
On our third day stranded, my husband drove down to pick us up. The days had been horrible, but we were so thankful that we were the lucky ones and made it to New York safely.
On 9/11, I remember all of those innocent people. I remember all of the first responders that worked so hard at great sacrifice to themselves. And I remember my own heroes too. I still have my daughter’s bear and the US Airways package. It’s strange because I am an anti-hoarder, but I’ll never be able to let them go, just like I will never forget.