I spent the last two days at a crop, and I have lots of stuff to share, but I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on September 11, 2001, that terrible day, ten years gone by. . . .
I had just started my job at the University of San Francisco. Paul was working for the California State Public Utilities Commission in downtown San Francisco. Henry was in kindergarten, and Clara was at the infant toddler center. My boy was a clingy child - he liked me to wait on the playground with him until after the morning bell rang, the kids lined up by class and then walked into their rooms, before I left. So, on that beautiful morning, I stood there hanging out and chatting with other parents. I was puzzled by what people were saying was happening on the East Coast (remember, it's three hours later here). I frankly didn't believe the stories of terrorism. I assumed that the news reports had been blown out of proportion.
Of course, I was wrong. Terribly, horribly wrong. I returned home, turned on the T.V. and followed the news reports all day. I called Paul, and we decided to leave the children in school. At three and six years old, normalcy seemed the best we could do for them. He was sent home, as were all non-essential downtown employees. They worried that his building - adorned with a giant seal of the State of California - could be a target. Our neighbor Ed, who worked in the TransAmerica pyramid, was sent home for the same reason. I called my parents, and we talked about Pearl Harbor. Soon, several of our neighbors came over, and we watched the coverage together. It felt better, safer, to be together. As I heard more and more stories of the day, I related to the passengers on the airplanes. I flew a lot in those days and often took those early morning flights home. I had dreams of being herded to the back of an airplane, from which I awoke in a cold sweat.
At some point, I realized that one of our best friends - Henry's Godfather - was in New York. I called his wife, Molly, and she said that Jack was in midtown and okay for now. I just kept saying to myself - he's in midtown, that's blocks away from the Twin Towers. Jack and Molly had been in New York for the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament (an annual tradition for them). Molly came home a few days before Jack, to get the kids ready for school, and Jack checked into the Cornell Club (his home away from home in New York City). On September 11, he checked out and went to conduct some business, planning to fly home later that day. After the towers collapsed, Jack joined thousands of people walking across Manhattan, trying to figure out where to go. He said he followed his instinct to walk West - toward California and home. Eventually, he returned to the Cornell Club in midtown. When he got there, he told the clerk he wanted to check in and stay until the airlines stated flying again. The clerk told him that there would be no rooms, as they had many new guests scheduled to check in that day. Jack laughed and tried to explain to the clerk that no one would be coming into New York that day.
Jack told us that story on Friday night of that week. He had returned to San Francisco a couple days earlier. He was on the very first flight which United Airlines flew from New York City to San Francisco. He was able to get on that flight because he has so many frequent flyer miles! We were glad he was able to get on that flight and touched that they called us to come spend that first Friday night with them.
Ripples from 9/11/01 continue to this day. When my parents passed away, it turned out that the broker's official records for their financial instruments no longer existed. The originals had been stored in Texas and destroyed in a fire; all the back ups had been in the Twin Towers. When I fly, I pass through elaborate security. Today, I want to remember not the destructive ripples of the event, but the ripples of friendship and community, the ripples of patriotism and hope. So, today, I will fly my flag and call Molly and Jack. I will hug my children and enjoy the freedom which I enjoy and which makes my country such a target. And today, I share my story with you - the first time I have put it in writing. I'd love to hear your story of 9/11 and how you remember it today.