I’m not sure how to feel today. Our oldest son, Cooper, is officially 8-years-old and we have been in celebration mode this weekend (actually, he has been in countdown to celebration mode for weeks). Laser tag, bowling, cupcakes at school, visits with grandparents, calls from well intentioned friends and family who probably should consider taking the happy birthday tune out of their repertoire (no offense- I should too), a tough Gamecock victory (had to throw that in) and much more. But between it all, I have caught myself watching the specials about the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and reading the posts on FB about where people were ten years ago today.
Not sure why I feel the need to share this and certainly don’t assume that anyone will read it, but here goes. I was in Detroit, Michigan ten years ago today calling on Henry Ford Hospital and other residency programs in Detroit. I happened to be staying in a hotel right next to the Federal Courthouse in downtown Detroit. I mention this because the hospital and the courthouse were quickly locked down after these attacks were deemed intentional and the uncertainty of what was still to come grew. Unbeknownst to me, Detroit has the largest concentration of Muslims in America, which immediately caused extra vigilance by law enforcement as they became more aware of who was at the controls of those weapons of mass destruction, I mean planes, and why we were attacked that day.
Don’t tell any of my old geography teachers, but I was also unaware of how close I was to the Canadian border. The Ambassador Bridge to Canada was immediately closed, which meant all automobile traffic backed up and came to a halt in downtown Detroit- official gridlock. I had rented a Ford Taurus when I landed, and after I talked to Brent (who was in Raleigh for work), he told me that he doubted I would be able to fly home any time soon and we agreed I should start driving.
I distinctly remember the phone calls from frantic family members who had gotten used to me traveling to the point that they didn’t really remember where it was I said I was going to be that week. Was it New York? To be honest, before all of the chaos, I had to actually look at the phone by the bed in the hotel to remind me of what city I had flown into so late the night before. Next came the calls from friends checking on me- Regan, Sasha, Shanna, Jenni, Mary Addison, Raychelle.
As I drove and listened to the events of the day unfold via radio, I wept. At the time, all I wanted to do was to pull over and watch the news on TV. My desire to be home won out, and I kept driving and listening as the reports (some accurate and some not so accurate) came in. By nightfall, the enormity of it all started to sink in.
I also witnessed unbelievable acts of patriotism and selflessness like never before. ATM’s and credit card machines weren’t working as I traveled, and I saw those with cash on hand quickly and without question hand it over to those in need at rest areas and gas stations. When I could drive no further and pulled into a hotel in West Virginia, their credit card machine hadn’t worked all day. They handed me the keys to my room even though I had no other way to pay them (I did mail them a check later). American flags flew everywhere I looked. People prayed.
I kept waiting and holding my breath as people that I personally knew and loved were accounted for. I’m sure many of you feel the same way, but suddenly, I felt like I knew every person that died that day and their spouses, children, parents, friends and family as each of their individual stories unfolded. I can’t imagine their loss.
For all of those lost that day and for all of those who have been lost trying to make sure something like this never happens again, I say a sincere and heartfelt, “Thank you.”
To my precious Cooper, I say, “Happy Birthday!”