|TITLE: I Was There!|
By Leola Ogle
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Groaning, I shut off the alarm, toying with the idea of sleeping another hour. Life would not end if I was late for work. Faithful to my responsibilities, I was determined get up.
I glanced at the emptiness of the bed, glad that my husband would return in a few days. I never slept well when he was gone. He was in Argentina attending an international revival conference with the leadership of our church. Although grateful for how God was touching their hearts, I would still be relieved to have him home.
Turning the television to the morning news, I reluctantly made my way to stand before the bathroom mirror. I must have left the pretty, young me asleep on the bed because I wasn’t sure who that tired, older woman in the mirror was. Leaning closer, I asked “Who are you?” Strange, her lips moved with mine. Pointing at her, I said “We better get it moving.”
Clutching my hairbrush, my hand stopped in midair. Did someone just say bomb? Explosion? Airplane? The brush clattered into the sink, as I rushed to stand before the television. I saw the billowing smoke; heard the panic, shock, horror in the voice of the reporter. Was it scenes from an upcoming movie? It had to be! It seemed surreal as I watched a plane fly into the side of…what? Where was this? What building was that?
I flew down the stair and turned on the television. It was the same scenes. Did I think the television upstairs was lying? I began switching channels. It was all the same. Someone mentioned it was an attack. Surely someone didn’t just say war! Oh, dear God, so many people running – running frantically amidst the smoke and flying debris.
Numb with disbelief, I slowly climbed the stairs, noticing that they needed vacuuming. Vacuuming – I should do that after work. It was reality - mundane normality. This other wasn’t.
Oh, God! Oh, God! I didn’t realize at first that I was moaning out loud, calling on the only source of help that I knew. I felt stricken, violated, paralyzed! My country, my fellow Americans! I whispered over and over “God help us!”
What was happening to America? My husband was in another country. Did the group from my church know? Of course they would know. We lived in a day of live, instant media coverage.
I drove to work, softly crying and praying, rivulets of mascara marking my anguish. I was hundreds of miles from New York, yet I was there via radio and television. I stared out my van window, unable to comprehend that nothing seemed different.
Arriving at work, I saw the somber, shocked faces, and knew that they knew. We gathered for prayer. Our nation gathered for prayer! In ensuing days we would watch the many prayer vigils across the nation. God, we need you! We’ve always needed you, but we usually ignore you, or worse, blaspheme you. Shame on us!
My husband called at mid-morning and I burst into tears. Please come home, I begged. He told me that there were no flights out. All flights into the U.S. had been cancelled. He finally arrived home that weekend.
Mesmerized, unable to tear our eyes from the horror, we watched the never-ending news reports. I flew the American flag. I bought t-shirts. I watched the opening game of the 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks. I bought the poster of the teams bowing their heads in remembrance. I cheered when the Diamondbacks won the series, but somehow felt that the Yankees should win – our gift to New York. My husband smiled compassionately, said I wasn’t a true fan.
Every year we watch the tributes and memorials. For a few years we wore our t-shirts on 9/11. Our lives returned to normal. But for thousands, life would never be normal again. So many lost their lives - many would never see a loved one again. My remembrance seems an insignificant offering in comparison.
I was home in Phoenix, Arizona on September 11, 2001, yet I was there - in New York City.