September 11, 2001, my husband and I were flying home to Portland from vacation in New England. We originally planned to fly out of Boston, but changed our plans and flew out of Providence, Rhode Island. While we were in the air to our layover at Chicago O’Hare, two hijacked planes slammed into New York City’s twin towers. At Chicago, we kept circling, descending, then lifting back up. We knew something unusual was happening, but no announcements were made to explain. When we finally landed, we looked at the monitor to find our connecting gate. Suddenly every flight said, CANCELLED. It was a bit of a wait before the airline personnel told us about the twin towers, told us that all flights in the U.S. were cancelled. (The reason our plane had circled so long, was the wait for so many other planes to land.) Our emotions at the news, indescribable. Shock, fear, confusion, concern about our family at home. Finally, we were able to contact our kids by cell phone. While on the phone with our son in law, he saw on his t.v. that the Pentagon was hit. There was no doubt now. Our country was under attack.
Suddenly thousand of strangers in an airport became family. Rental cars were shared. People helped each other find lodging. In the midst of it all, tears and frantic phone calls were going on all around us, especially by those who had just left their family in New York City a few hours before. Yet the atmosphere was not chaotic. Everyone was polite, caring, helping one another.
We ended up finding a vacant hotel room in a suburb outside the city. The shuttle to the hotel was filled with stranded ones like us. We were all equally shocked, equally confused at what had really happened. None of us had seen a television or heard a radio so nothing really made sense.
In the hotel room, the first thing we did was turn on the television. We held each other and cried when we saw what had happened, while we had been in flight, blissfully ignorant. We sat on the bed, eyes glued to the television hour after hour. We saw Congress sing, “God Bless America” on the capitol’s steps. We were sure that night that America would never be the same. We were sure that the attack would cause America to return to her foundation, return to God. For a while, we did, but now, have we forgotten?