September 11, 2001, my husband and I were flying home to Portland from celebrating our twenty fifth anniversary 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 line to check into our flight, the dark haired man with a thick accent in line in front of us was not allowed to board. There was a problem with his ID...we've often wondered about that.
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, our plane 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. Every t.v. in the airport shut down. 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 and why. I assume they were trying to keep one of the busiest airports in the US from becoming a place of mass panic. We realized that 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. The airport was a mass of people frantically dialing their cell phones over and over, trying to reach their loved ones. Finally, we were able to contact our children by cell phone. While on the phone with our son in law, he saw on his television that the Pentagon was hit. He screamed into the phone, "we're under attack!" There was no doubt now.
Thousand of strangers in that airport became family. I'll never forget how, when push came to shove, people banded together like that. Rental cars were shared. People helped each other find lodging. In the midst of it all, tears and frantic phone calls continued 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. My husband and I 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, I fear that we have forgotten.