At 5:30 am on September 11, 2001, I was in a very deep sleep when our home phone rang. It was my husband’s friend, Tim calling us looking for Gary, hoping that he hasn’t left for work just yet. I remember feeling exceptionally tired that morning… Perhaps it’s because at that time, I was 5 months pregnant with our “miracle son” Garrett.
Tim was so distraught and he said: “Turn on the news! There was a major explosion in New York and the Twin Towers were bombed!”
I sat in bed in shock and I wept as I witnessed a plane crash into one of the Twin Towers. At first, I was in denial. I thought to myself, this has got to be the biggest prank ever puled off my the media, and this can’t be happening. It was simply incomprehensible that something like this could happen to the US… the strongest and most loved nation in the world! Well, at least that’s what I thought then….
As the events about the flights unfolded, I then realized that a plane was actually flown right into the building and shortly I found out there were 2 United Airlines Flights involved in the planned attack that morning – UA Flight 175 and UA Flight 93. As soon as I heard that, my entire body froze. I didn’t know what to think nor feel. My immediate reaction was “Oh my God, oh my God… I could have been one of those crew members!” Why?
It’s because Flight 175 – Boston Logan Airport to Los Angeles International Airport – was part of my regular flight assignments just before I took a pregnancy leave.
Then my thoughts went to the crew members. Could any of my friends be in those flights? So many thoughts… so many emotions… so many things I wanted to do and reach out to people from our LAX Inflight Office to sending emails to all my Flight Attendant friends to intending to be of comfort to them as well. Being quite familiar with those routes hit me hard when I heard of what happened to those flights. I vividly remembered the exact layout of both the 767 and 757 and was mortified as the news speculated on what could have happened to the passengers and crew of those flights. I broke down with emotion as I couldn’t bear to imagine how horrifying those last few minutes were for the Flight Attendants and passengers on board.
My brain couldn’t process what was going on… I thought about how all of those people on the flight, left their homes, drove their cars or had shuttle pick up or friends drop them off that morning to the airport, eagerly waited for their flights, boarded the plane and were greeted and welcomed by the Flight Attendants.
I thought about those Flight Attendants and Pilots who said good-bye to their families that morning, to go to work, check in at their Inflight Offices, did their briefings, boarded the plane, did their pre-flight safety check, prepared the Galley and welcomed the passengers with a smile.
What seemed to be a typical day of work turned into the nightmares or nightmares!
Wikipedia wrote an account of the heroic actions that crew members and passengers did before Flight 175 hit the South Tower:
“Flight attendant Robert Fangman, as well as two passengers (Peter Hanson and Brian David Sweeney), made phone calls from GTE airphones in the rear of the aircraft. Airphone records also indicate that Garnet Bailey made four phone call attempts, trying to reach his wife.
Fangman called a United Airlines office in San Francisco at 08:52, and spoke with Marc Policastro. Fangman reported the hijacking and said that the hijackers were likely flying the plane. He also said that both pilots were dead and that a flight attendant was stabbed. After a minute and 15 seconds, Fangman’s call was disconnected. Policastro subsequently made attempts to contact the aircraft’s cockpit using the Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) message system.
Brian David Sweeney tried calling his wife, Julie, at 08:58, but ended up leaving a message, telling her that the plane had been hijacked. He then called his parents at 9:00 a.m. and spoke with his mother, Louise. Sweeney told his mother about the hijacking and mentioned that passengers were considering storming the cockpit and taking control of the aircraft.
At 08:52, Peter Hanson called his father, Lee Hanson, in Easton, Connecticut, telling him of the hijacking. Hanson was traveling with his wife, Sue, and 2½-year-old daughter, Christine, who had never flown on a plane before. The family was originally seated in Row 19, in seats C, D, and E; however, Peter placed the call to his father from seat 30E. Speaking softly, Hanson said that the hijackers had commandeered the cockpit, that a flight attendant had been stabbed, and that possibly someone else in the front of the aircraft had been killed. He also said that the plane was flying erratically. Hanson asked his father to contact United Airlines, but Lee could not get through and instead called the police.
Peter Hanson made a second phone call to his father at 09:00:
|“||It’s getting bad, Dad. A stewardess was stabbed. They seem to have knives and Mace. They said they have a bomb. It’s getting very bad on the plane. The plane is making jerky movements. I don’t think the pilot is flying the plane. I think we are going down. I think they intend to go to Chicago or someplace and fly into a building. Don’t worry, Dad. If it happens, it’ll be very fast…Oh my God…oh my God, oh my God.”||”|
As the call abruptly ended, Hanson’s father heard a woman screaming.” – Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Airlines_Flight_175
Like the rest of the country, I was an emotional wreck. From shock, I felt sadness then fear. I was about to give birth to my only child and all of a sudden, I felt pessimistic about the life that awaits this new life.
I got on my hands and knees, thanking God that I wasn’t working that flight, as I could have easily been one of the Flight Attendants working that trip that day! At the same time, I felt horrible and sick to my stomach to even begin to imagine of what really happened to the flight crew and their passengers and all those people in the towers and nearby buildings and streets and and wondered how this incident is going to alter our freedom, our way of life.
I didn’t know how to feel… On one hand, I was saying, “Thank you God, for saving my life….” Yet I was sad, confused and wondered, “Why them and not me?”
I did my best to function that day. I remember I jumped out of bed, went to the bank, took $3,000 in cash, then went grocery shopping for canned goods and food. In my mind I was thinking of The Port of Los Angeles could be the next target. I felt as tough we actually lost a huge part of our freedom. As the news unfolded and featured heroic men and women – the New York Police Department, the New York Fire Department, and many other agencies, organizations and civilians that mobilized from all over the world! I wanted to do something – to be in New York and do whatever I can do to help out amidst the feeling of helplessness, hopelessness and confusion.
Much has happened since 9/11/01. Our Garrett is now almost 10 years old and while he was in Mommy’s tummy on 9/11/01, he now has an understanding of what went on during that day and the critical role it played in our history.
Just the other day, I was with him at the grocery store and I saw this cover of People Magazine:
The image of this girl on the front cover, holding a photo of her father on a necklace that she wears, was a painful yet inspiring reminder of that day. I showed Garrett photos of more children in the magazine who have truly never seen their parents who were killed from the senseless acts of 9/11. Like Garrett, these children were just about to be born during 9/11 so they never got to meet their parents.
There was a big shift in his demeanor that morning. We paged through the magazine together, we looked at the photos and as we read more about how these children have to grow up missing one or both parents, he asked me: “Mom, I feel so sorry for them… why would people do such a bad thing?”
I had to think long and hard before I answered that. I wanted to make sure that commemorate this day with respect, reverence and gratitude for those whose lives were cut short by this tragedy. I want to make sure that this day will have a positive meaning for him so that it will count for something and not just be another day in history. I vowed that every year we will commemorate and do something special. Sharing this blog post is one of those things we vowed to do each year so people don’t ever forget. Another one is renewing our promise to ourselves that we will continue to live our lives in service of others – with love, compassion and inspiration.
To Garrett’s question, I simply answered:
“People do things – bad or good – for different motivations and while we can’t control the outcome, there is one thing we always have control of, and that is our reaction to it and digging deeper for lessons or stories that we will choose to get out of everything happens in our lives. If a situation we can help, donate or volunteer, we do without hesitation. It’s understanding how we need deal with such circumstances, by first looking within, that truly shapes our character. That we should make other people’s sacrifices count for something. We have to ask ourselves, what would most of those people want us to do? I believe that they would want us to remember them, remember their families and remind ourselves to live each day with gratitude, loving each other and reminding ourselves that we matter – that our relationships matter and in the end, love is all there is.”
I could have told him to feel hate, disappointment and fear but instead, I wanted the sacrifices of our esteemed men and women from 9/11 to count for something.
I chose to have 9/11 mean something more than just being a conspiracy theory or a result of a religious war or simply the inability of government to protect us.
I chose to honor this day as something that has reshaped and strengthened America and her people and not focus on the vulnerability and the weakening of a great nation.
I believe that if we all do our best to never forget and make 9/11 count for something and teach the generations after us that this day is when Americans showed the world that in diversity, we showed strength, that in our weakest days, even for one brief moment, we stood firm and once again put the word “UNITED” back in the United States.
Let’s make 9/11 count for something by not forgetting and by making something out of ourselves and collectively making a difference. Yes, I am a naturalized citizen of the United States but I LOVE AMERICA, probably more than some people who have been given the privilege to be born here, yet take that for granted. If they only knew how millions of people all over the world would do whatever it takes to have the opportunity to come here, there might be more of an appreciation for that blessing of being born here.
In the words of my favorite song:
“I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m FREE
And I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me,
And I’d gladly stand up, next to him and defend her still today
Coz there ain’t no doubt I LOVE THIS LAND
God Bless the USA…”
Sending You Love and Blessings,