Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

by VivaLasViejas Guide

.....on that September day, now twelve years in the past, yet which is ever present in our hearts and minds as we face new threats of war. Journey back in time for a moment to that morning, when America's innocence was lost forever and a new generation of warriors was born.

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    Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

    September 11, 2001.

    It was the morning of my second day at a new job. I was just waking up when my sister, who was living with my family at the time, banged on my bedroom door and ran into my room without waiting for an answer. Her normally unflappable manner was gone and her voice quavered with fear: “Viva, wake up, you’ve got to come see the TV, I think we’re being attacked—planes have crashed into the World Trade Center and it’s on fire, the Pentagon’s on fire, and they say another plane might be headed for the White House!”

    I dashed into the living room, heedless of the fact that the curtains were open and I was in my nightgown, and watched breathlessly as history was being made in front of our eyes. I was somewhat surprised to note that my teenaged daughters had stayed home from school to see what was happening, and they watched with us as the towers burned and the cameras continued to roll.

    We couldn’t believe what our eyes were seeing. We gasped in horror as we saw people leap to their deaths from the upper floors of the World Trade Center. We saw footage of the third plane and the fiery hell that was the Pentagon, and wondered how many were dead inside. We heard the news that a fourth plane, which had apparently been aimed at Washington, had crashed in a Pennsylvania field leaving no survivors.

    And then the first tower collapsed.

    Unbelievably, it seemed to telescope upon itself as it crumbled to the street below. All four of us cried out “Oh, my God!” and the oldest daughter began to cry as an enormous dust cloud engulfed buildings and people alike. Nobody knew how many souls had been in that tower. Nobody knew how many had gotten out safely. All America knew was that few, if any people who were in the tower at that moment could have survived.

    Meanwhile, the TV showed endless replays of the second plane crashing into the tower as bystanders below screamed and cursed. This footage was interspersed with views of the remaining tower as it burned, with people easily visible as they leaned out of the windows, frantically signaling for help that would never come.

    Suddenly, another loud, sickening roar burst forth as it, too, collapsed in much the same way its twin had. The girls screamed, and my sister and I burst into tears. It felt like the end of the world was at hand, and worse, we had no idea when, or if, there would be more attacks. The news anchors knew no more than we did—all they could do was speculate—and wild rumors spread furiously across the media: the Sears Tower had also supposedly been hit (this turned out to be untrue), there were more planes headed for DC and possible Los Angeles (also a false alarm), the President and his staff were safe but hiding in an unknown bunker (partly true).

    Finally, around 11:30 (our time) it occurred to me that I really should go to work, it being only my second day and all, but when I got there the first thing I saw was an ambulance. It seemed that our resident who was a Pearl Harbor survivor had suffered a heart attack while watching the TV in the dining room, and the atmosphere at the nursing home was almost as crazy as it was everywhere else across the country.

    We managers tried to turn off all the TVs in the facility to avoid further upset to the residents, but it seemed like every time we turned around, they were on again and staff and residents alike were gathered around them. By the time lunch was over, we’d given up and found ourselves stopping to watch the horror as we ran around the building trying to keep everybody calm.

    What I remember most clearly about that day, however, was the anger. I'd been a pacifist all my life, but this slaughter of innocents was too monstrous to be borne. I wanted to hurt the animals that had done this. I wanted war. I wanted us to bomb these mass murderers back to the Biblical times where they belonged. How DARE they bring their barbarism to our shores and kill thousands of Americans for no reason other than the fact that they were Americans!

    I also felt this overwhelming desire to stop time, right then and there, so that my family and I could huddle together and be safe forever. I wanted it so badly I could practically taste it. I couldn’t wait to get home that night, hug my husband and all four of my kids, and close the windows and doors against the terror that seemed to be waiting just outside.

    A dozen years have come and gone since that September morning, and even though we were nowhere near New York City that day, nor were any of our friends or distant family involved, 9/11 has touched us in more ways than we thought possible at the time. In no small part due to the events of that day, our youngest daughter’s boyfriend joined the Marines after high school graduation a couple of years later. Some time later, he was sent to Iraq, only to be killed by a sniper just outside Fallujah a few days before he was to come home on leave.

    Because of him, the same daughter went on to join the Army and also went to Iraq, although her outcome was much better. And because of her, our older son joined the Army as well and went to Iraq as an infantryman; he suffers now from PTSD and depression, and sometimes my husband and I wonder if he’ll ever be OK again.

    But perhaps the most poignant memory of 9/11 for me is the chorus of a song written and sung by the great country singer Alan Jackson shortly thereafter, appropriately titled “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”—a song I play on this day every year:

    I’m just a singer of simple songs, I’m not a real political man,
    I watch CNN and I can’t hardly tell you the difference ‘tween Iraq and Iran,
    But I know Jesus and I talk to God,
    and I remember this from when I was young~
    Faith, hope and love were some good things He gave us,
    and the greatest is love…

    I don't want war anymore. We may not be able to "love" our enemies as Christ would, but as two Middle Eastern wars should have already taught us, stepping into their battles won't make them our friends.

    Just a few thoughts on a warm September afternoon, not unlike that first Patriot Day so long ago.
    Last edit by Joe V on Sep 24, '13
    Joe V, herring_RN, SoldierNurse22, and 5 others like this.
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    VivaLasViejas joined Sep '02 - from 'The Great Northwest'. Age: 55 VivaLasViejas has '17' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'LTC, assisted living, geriatrics, psych'. Posts: 24,583 Likes: 33,363; Learn more about VivaLasViejas by visiting their allnursesPage


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    4 Comments so far...

  5. 4
    I think we all have our own memories of that awful day. And I guess I had all the same emotions and concerns that the rest of the world did. Two things stand out poignantly for me.

    I remember watching a TV clip of the burning Towers as seen from the NJ side from behind the Statue of Liberty as she looked over to NY. All I could think of was how Lady Liberty could only just stand there and she had to watch the Towers burn and then fall. I KNOW that that is a weird observation but it was something that just sticks with me.

    My other distinct memory came some days after the attacks. All air traffic had been halted and the skies were empty for the time being. When it resumed, I remember walking to my car when an airplane flew overhead and I heard the roar in a previously silent sky. I vividly remember DUCKING for cover! It was instinct.

    Today, I get a lump in my throat whenever I see a TV show/movie pre-2001 that has film of the Towers intact. Early Law & Order:SVU or CI reruns show the Towers in its opening credits. And the Jessica Lange King Kong uses the Towers as a sub for Kong's island mountain.

    To any AN members who served as responders in NY, DC or PA, thank you for that service.
  6. 3
    Ironically, I was in my highschool history class, in a small rural town in Quebec. My teacher walked out of class when someone came to speak to him, and her came back in with a tv a few minutes later. He said history was being made with this tragedy happening to our American brothers, and nothing would ever be the same. And he was right.
    I had no idea there was still so much hate in this world. And I had even less of an idea of how much of that hate was directed at us as North-Americans.
    Viva, I'm like you. I was still a kid myself at that time, but now, I think back on it, on all the horrible crap that keeps happening...all I want to do is hug my daughter tight, find some private island somewhere and just isolate ourselves from all that hate.
  7. 2
    I was in computer class in 8th grade. That day changed the course of my life--and what I'd do with my nursing degree--forever.
    herring_RN and VivaLasViejas like this.
  8. 3
    We were in Reno, waiting for the Air Races to start the next day. The place was crawling with military and airline pilots, active and retired, all of whom are very protective of their planes, crew, and passengers. It was a mass of PO'd pilots I can tell you.