I remember racing to the airport in Catania, Sicily. September 11, 2001 was supposed to be the day that my then 9 month old baby boy would meet his abuelos (my dh’s parents) for the first time.
I remember racing through the airport in Rome, with the carry-on, the laptop, and the diaper strapped to me while dh carried the baby in his car seat.
I remember barely making the connection in Rome that would carry us to Chicago and ultimately San Diego.
I remember sitting in my seat as the pilot announced that the borders or America were closed, and we would be turning around to land in London.
I remember the worried look on my husband’s face when he returned to his seat. (he had been in the restroom changing the baby’s diaper when the announcement was made.)
I remember the fear I felt when other passengers started talking about the possibilities. “Oh My God! They’ve hit the Whitehouse!” one woman screamed. Others whispered, “why? What could have possibly been so bad to close America?”
I remember trying to hold on to my sanity and ignore the rumors as panic began to spread throughout the plane.
I remember sitting in that airplane for more than 2 hours while parked on a London runway, trying to keep my 9 month old happy all the while wondering what could have possibly happened.
I remember staring out the window of the airplane, uncomprehending, at the endless line of airplanes parked on the runway because there was no other place to put them all.
I remember finally being allowed off the plane. We were all sent through the long lines at customs.
I remember when we finally got to the head of the line, watching as the customs agent next to us looked at the passport of an Arabic man from the flight. She calmly and quietly told him he would go no further until he stepped behind the sheets and had a chat with one of the British doctors. I remember thinking, “well, whatever happened, it must involve them.”
I remember the chaos that greeted us as we stepped through customs and into baggage claim. There were so many bags, the carousels weren’t operating. Instead there were signs above massive piles of baggage. How were we ever to find our stuff?
I remember the kind British baggage handler. She had compassion on me. She saw me struggling to find a baggage cart with the baby strapped to my chest. She handed me her own cart so that I would be able to get my luggage through the airport to the bus.
I remember the feeling of relief I felt when I finally found my dh again amidst the sea of luggage. And the second wave of relief I felt when I saw that he had managed to find all of our luggage.
I remember stopping an American Airlines representative to ask her what had happened to cause all of the confusion going on around me. We had heard rumors, but we still hadn’t heard what was true.
I remember the numbness that crept over me as she said, “Hijacked planes were flown into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.” Then she ran off to find us all hotels. Surely, it couldn’t be true.
I remember standing the cold London air, waiting to find out what bus we needed to take, and what hotel we were supposed to be going to.
I remember the kind bus driver, who took our group even though he didn’t know where the hotel was, just so that we could get the baby onto a warm bus and out of the cold air.
I remember the shock I felt, when while sitting in the warm bus, waiting for the rest of the passengers to load, we heard the news report from the British radio.
I remember the looks of shock on the faces of the other passengers, as they filed onto the bus and heard the news for the first time. Everyone was so quiet. Throughout the ride, there were quiet tears, and whispered worries about friends and family back home. Even when the bus got lost, there weren’t any complaints. Just a feeling of being shell-shocked.
I remember how kind the hotel staff was that night. Bell boys running like crazy to help everyone get to their rooms. Even Room service stayed open a few hours late so that all the travelers could be fed.
I remember after getting settled in our room, and ordering room service (we hadn’t had any food since the flight, almost 8 hours before), we turned on the TV to see for ourselves.
I remember the shock and numbness turning into heart wrenching pain as we watched the footage being replayed as the towers were hit and then fell.
I remember lunging for the phone as soon as I realized that Pentagon had been hit. Even though my family doesn’t live or work close to it (they do live in Maryland), I still felt panic and fear as I dialed home.
I remember just about losing what little control I had when the phone squawked in my ear, “all circuits are busy.”
I remember the feeling of relief I felt when we got through to my dh’s mother on the west coast. I remember breathing a huge sigh of relief when she assured me she had spoken to my parents and my family were all fine.
I remember dosing off, and waking up in time to hear the president’s speech. Not much of what he said sunk in. But I did try to call my parents again and finally got through.
I remember my dad telling us it wasn’t worth it. I remember hearing the fear in his voice as he tried to calmly tell us to go back to Italy, that they didn’t know where the several of the planes were and that they were unsure where the next ones would hit.
I remember the next few days, waiting in line for a flight back to the states. Completely losing my composure when it was announced there would be no flights. Spending the night in Heathrow Airport while we waited for our early morning flight back to Italy. The days and weeks that followed, dealing with travel restrictions and restrictions on the base. I remember all the fear, the worry, the concern in the days that followed.
I remember the reasons we started combating Terrorism worldwide.