I wrote this on September 11, 2011. This is all still very clear in my mind, so I am sharing it with you in memory and in honor of all those who died that day (and in the weeks, months and years afterward).
Quilting on 9/11/01
The morning of September 11, 2001 I stopped by my friend’s house to pick her up for a day of quilting in Dubuque. Our quilt guild was having a work day that day to make quilts for one of our community service projects.
She opened her door and as I looked in at her TV I could see a huge plume of smoke coming from one of the WTC towers. I asked her what on earth had happened, and she told me a plane had just hit one of the towers. Not much else was known. We didn’t know if it was an accident or what it might be yet.
We got it in the car and drove, listening to the radio on the way. The second tower was hit and then we knew. This was no accident.
We arrived, got our equipment set up, and the workday began. People discussed the news and their fears as we sewed, cut, pressed and trimmed. The older ladies remembered their thoughts and fears on the day of the Pearl Harbor bombing. One quilter was supposed to have flown to see her daughter that afternoon, but the flight was cancelled.
It became clear that this was a concerted attack as the news of the other tragedies at the Pentagon and of Flight 93 in PA came. We listened to the radio some, but not all the time. We sewed. We talked. Some were very upset and scared while others were quiet and shocked. Someone asked if we should all go home.
Another older lady stood up and said — though I’m summarizing here I remember it very clearly — “I don’t want to be home alone and afraid. If this is the beginning of another US involvement in a war as Pearl Harbor was, then I want to be HERE quilting and doing something good to help others. I’d rather be here with all of you than face this alone at home.” There was a murmur of agreement.
The cutting, pressing, sewing, talking continued.
We worked and most of us stayed until mid-afternoon.
Benjamin was in kindergarten that fall and Sarah was at the Children’s Center that day. I picked them both up and tried to continue with our normal evening — dinner, playing, etc. I was anxious and desperately wanted to turn on the news but since they were so small (not quite 3 and barely 5) I did not want them to see and hear the horrible things that had happened that day. At some point that day I took a picture of Sarah smiling and looking cute in her Dorothy costume, which she wore most days at that time. That photo says 9/11/01 in the corner and is part of my memories of that day.
I waited until the children were in bed and finally got to turn on the TV news. By that time of day most channels were not giving details of what had happened that morning; they assumed everyone had been watching all day. It took a while before I could piece together the sequence of all that had happened in my mind. I did not see the video of the plane hitting or of the towers falling until later that evening. It was horrific. Worse than I imagined.
I remember hoping that Bush was a better man
than I thought he was.
I remember thinking the whole world had
just changed in a single day.
I remember thinking my children were going to grow up in a world where this event would shape the future.
I remember thinking of all those people who had died
so suddenly, so tragically, so bravely.
I remember the silence of the swarms of people as they trudged across the bridges
out of New York
with the smoke and haze surrounding them.
I remember the looks on their faces.
I remember those fragments of the towers
standing in the rubble.
I remember wanting to hug my family and keep them safe, somehow, no matter what.
I remember being worried about the future.
I prayed for understanding, for peace,
for strength, for courage — and I still do.
I haven’t watched many of the programs that have rehashed the events of that day.
My heart still aches to think of all those families and children and parents and friends who lost loved ones that day.
Last spring, I had the opportunity to visit the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. Here are some photos I took that day: