The answer is simple, because I won’t ever forget that day: My husband Troy and I were parked in a neat little RV spot along the McKenzie River in Oregon. Laying low between rodeos, my husband is a clown and barrelman, we often visit State Parks and campgrounds. It is an inexpensive way of lodging and a wonderful opportunity to see so much of what this great land has to offer.
I remember that just the day before 9-11 we paddled down the McKenzie River in our sea kajaks. Taking the challenge of a class 3 whitewater section of the river, I didn’t only lose the challenge, but also my boat. After a very chilling swim down stream, I finally caught up with Troy who managed to secure my kajak a mile or so below the high current.
Besides a bruised shin and ego, no considerable damage was done and after a shot of spiced rum to warm me up, the world seemed to be back in order.
Well, at least until the following morning.
We don’t have a satellite dish on our travel trailer, because we don’t watch that much TV while on the road. The privately owned RV Park offered cable, however, and since early that morning Troy enjoyed the rare luxury of a live television newscast and a fresh cup of joe.
I decided to go on an early morning bike ride. Mind you; in Oregon, we were three hours behind the going-ons in NYC.
Vividly I remember the scene when I returned back to the RV Park. Through open doors on RVs and smaller busses I could see everyone just staring at the TV screen. A few people discussed something with utter urgency, otherwise there seemed to hover an eerie stillness over the area. I found my husband glued to the TV set as well and didn’t get a response when I asked him what was going on. Then, I saw it for myself;
The first tower was already hit. I can’t remember which station we were following, but what I do remember is the uncertainty in the anchor’s voice. Actually I believe the man was close to tears as he reported.
Disbelief was my first thought. To me it looked like a movie, like something someone fabricated on film. Unreal and unrealistic. I was even beginning to get upset with my husband, because he completely ignored me and didn’t answer any of my questions. Something deep inside my mind prevented me from comprehending what I saw. Later on I realized that some sort of denial must have kicked in. Some sort of self defense mechanism which didn’t allow the horrible happenings to sink in.
Until the second plane hit. Then, it became clearer.
I remember the shock, the unspeakable, indescribable feeling of helplessness. Doubt, mixed with fear and later on raging anger sat deep down in my belly and ached. There I was, 2000 miles away, safe and sound, and unable to do ANYTHING.
On TV we watched all day as firefighters fought a losing battle. We watched as they lost their mission and their men. We watched as a city, as big as a beast, got eaten alive by another beast – human hate and what it is capable of.
Of course we learned about the Pentagon being attacked, and also about yet another plane crashing into a field close to little ol' Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
I remember in vivid colors that one emotion stood out by the end of the day: Besides the bottomless depth of sadness, I felt guilt. I felt incredibly guilty for being OKAY. I felt guilty for being unharmed and safe, I felt guilty for complaining about something so mindless like my mishap on my kajak trip the day before. I felt guilty for being without ash on my clothes or dust on my face while others, innocent people, suffered terror no person has words for.
Today it is difficult to describe all the emotions of that day. So much has piled up over the years that, I have to be honest; I see the events of that tragic day in a blur. A blur, not because I’m trying to forget or because I’m ignorant. No – never will I! But I see a blur because a million emotions have added to the initial ones that day has caused.
Where I was on 9-11-01? I was safe, but so many weren’t.
I would like to thank Mike Monahan, who wrote his story about what he was doing that day. Mike answered the call of a newspaper writer. Someone who thinks America should write down and share her stories.
God bless the souls lost on 9/11. May He bring peace to the families who suffered so much, and bless those who still seek justice!