Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering September 11, 2001

I have never written about this day before. Not even last year, when it was the ten-year anniversary of the tragedy, and I lived in New York. I'm writing this for my children, so they will know what it was like to hear the news, see the footage, and how it felt. There are historic moments, both good and bad, that are personal and powerful, which have a collective effect upon a nation or a country. This was one such moment.

On September 11, 2001, I was 24 years old and had been married to my husband for 3 1/2 years. We lived in Provo, Utah (395. N 800 W.) I had graduated from Brigham Young University 2 years earlier. My husband was attending graduate school at BYU. My oldest son was 23 months old and my second son was 2 months old. My house was a disaster that morning. I had been neglecting my household chores, but woke up that morning determined to tackle the mess of dishes in my kitchen and make some order in my house. I was listening to a book on tape, washing dishes, while my baby lay in a bouncer and my toddler was playing around my feet.

The phone rang, interrupting my work. I stopped my tape, and answered the phone. "Hello," I answered.

"Tiffany, this is Christina. Turn on the TV now. Someone is attacking America," my friend practically barked this across the lines.

Stunned, I wasn't sure how to respond to this news. I turned on the television and watched the footage unveiling on the TV. It was shocking and horrifying to watch the World Trade Center Towers collapse, to see the smoke billowing from the tragedy, and later to learn of the attack on the Pentagon, and another plane crashing.

I trembled in fear at the horrific vision unfolding before me on the television. It was not a blockbuster film but reality. My children felt my fear and were both fussy and clingy for the rest of the day. The TV stayed on all day so I wouldn't miss any news.

My husband had been at school all day, and as we were poor college students and cell phones were an unnecessary luxury, I couldn't contact him. Two of my sisters were also at school at BYU. I was scared and worried.

One of my dearest friends lived in New York City and her husband worked for a financial company. I had no idea if he had an office in those buildings. So I started to call her, but the circuits were busy. Eventually, I was able to reach her and learned that, to my relief, that both she and her husband were okay.

That evening, my husband and I invited my sisters and their rommates over to our home to watch the news, eat dinner, and regroup.

Over the next few weeks, we scoured the news for information and learned more details of what happened. I attended Memorial Services given by churches. Sometimes I would take my little boys outside and noticed how a plane passing overhead would make my heart start pounding.

Nearly a month later after the attacks I was watching LDS General Conference, while President Gordon B. Hinckley was speaking and he interrupted his talk with a note that was passed to him and said that the United States military had launched an offensive against Afghanistan.

And thus began a period of wars that haven't ceased in the Middle East for eleven years. I had no idea then how much of my life would actually connect with the Middle East. In the days following 9/11 patriotic fervor was at a fever pitch. Flags were flown at homes. Patriotic music blared from homes and cars. And we all tried to make sense of it. Ugly attacks were perpetrated against Muslims across the United States.

I was troubled by the attacks, hoping that surely while they are zealots and fanatics in every religion, we shouldn't define religion based on the nut jobs. But I didn't know any Muslims personally.

A year later, we moved to Sweden, and throughout our 5 1/2 years in the country, we met several Muslim families, mostly families that had come to Sweden to study or to escape violence and government instability in their home countries. This move was the first of many. Now, in Saudi Arabia, we are again learning more and experiencing Muslim culture in a completely different way. Through these experiences, I've discovered that the actions of a few fanatics definitely shouldn't define an entire religion or the millions of Muslims in the world.

I've changed a lot since that fateful day 11 years ago. I didn't see all the complexities and conflict in the world  as I do now.

As I reflect on that day, I feel sorrow for the men and women who died. I honor the heroes who risked their lives to save others. I marvel at the generosity of New Yorkers and their amazing capacity to unite and work together to help each other. I sorrow at the eleven years that our country has spent at war in the Middle East. And I keep hoping that we can end all these conflicts with one another and achieve peace.
For more images about September 11, 2011, you can go here


  1. On 9/11 I left Grand Central Station going north to my office in Rockefeller Plaza completely clueless as to what had just happened. Then I came across a crowd peering through a bank window at TVs which normally display financial news. My thought was, Oh No, A stock market crash! There goes my retirement.
    As I got closer to the TVs I saw pictured there a burning building, it was the World Trade center! First one tower, then the other. One burning building could be an accident, but I recalled the car bomb attack on the WTC eight years prior. Two towers burning could only mean another attack. At that point I turned around and faced south for the first time since arriving in Manhattan. And there it was, black smoke filling the sky.

    When I arrived at the office, it was chaos. One friend was in tears & hysteria. She was on a commuter bus from NJ that passed by the WTC just as a plane hit it. By 10am it was announced that Rockefeller Center was closing down; as a possible target, everyone was to evacuate and go home.

    The walk back to Grand Central was very strange. The street was filled with hundreds (thousands?) of persons walking north. Only I was walking south. I felt like a salmon going upstream against the current. I did not know that the mayor had declared a mandatory evaculation of lower Manhattan. Were these ALL financial workers walking home?
    My wife's advice was to take any train out of GCT, just get out of NYC. Once again, after the fact, I learned that I caught the last train out before the rails were shut down. The train stopped briefly near the GW Bridge for a safety check but eventually I arrived home. My wife said the Bishop has called her to see if I was OK. He called all the families that he could recall that worked in the city. My parents had also called in a panic after seeing the news. Manhattan is MUCH bigger than most people realize and I was never closer than 4 miles to the WTC.
    It is a day I will long remember.

  2. Absolutely beautiful post, living in NYC, it seems unreal sometimes that it happened Just found you on a blog link up, newest follower, love the blog!

    Jan @Door251