Remembering this day quickly takes me back to Phoenix, Arizona.
I was 23 years old, Chad and I had been married for 2 years and we had just moved across the country from home, spending every dime we had on a moving truck and a deposit on an apartment I had never seen until we showed up with our things. We hardly had enough money to buy groceries, as we were arriving to no jobs. Just my unpaid internship and his audio schooling. Young and hopeful…..and scared.
We had left everything I had ever known. My parents, my brother, my friends from childhood, my hometown. I was so depressed the first 2 weeks that I refused to leave the apartment unless Chad was with me. I was terrified of getting lost. We didn’t know one soul that lived in the same state as us anymore.
Things slowly, but surely, started getting better. I started working at Best Western Design Headquarters as an intern design assistant. I loved this job and had feedback of a possible position there after interning was finished. This was my last college task before graduating with my B.S. in Interior Design. Long distance. (I never went back home to march or celebrate a college graduation.)
Chad was waiting for school to start by working a job that he hated, but we were making it.
Chad and I had been living in Phoenix for six weeks when my dad and stepmom flew out for a visit. It was a long anticipated weekend for me because I was desperate to see a familiar face. The weekend passed and had it’s own memorable events and then they were gone. Dad had to go straight to Las Vegas for a work convention and Donna had to fly back home in the east for work.
I don’t remember details at that point, because the next few days were a blur. I think they left our place on the 9th of September and then I knew that Donna would be flying home the next day or two. I didn’t know what day or when my Dad would be traveling back home either.
The morning of September 11th, 2001, my alarm went off at 7am MST. Chad was still sleeping, since his shift didn’t start until later. I remember stumbling to the bathroom and suddenly hearing the phone ring. I remember thinking “What? Who’s calling me this early?” I rushed to grab it and took it into the bathroom of our 680 sq ft apartment, trying not to wake Chad up. I said “Hello?!”
I heard my brother Josh’s panicked voice on the other end: “Mandi! Where’s Dad?!?!”
“Um…..I’m not sure. Vegas? Flying? Why….what’s wrong?” I remember saying, very confused.
His short reply? “Turn on your TV now! The U.S. is under attack.”
I rushed to our tiny living room and turned the TV on. What I saw completely horrified me. Josh quickly explained what was happening as I watched it for a minute. I told him I needed to go wake up Chad and try to get in touch with Dad. At that point, we had no idea where the planes were coming from, so I was panicking.
I immediately went to wake Chad up, then started dialing. And nothing happened. The phones everywhere in this country were being used and I could not get through to my Dad. I was trying not to dissolve into a panic, but it was difficult. I kept dialing his number over and over and over.
Chad and I sat on our little futon and were frozen in horror as we saw bodies jumping from burning buildings, people running for their lives covered in white dust, and the screaming. I couldn’t tear my eyes away, as much as it was making me sick.
I felt lost. I wanted to see my family and I knew I couldn’t.
I was terrified to leave and so I called my office and said I wasn’t coming. They said it was fine, they understood. (Later, I found out that a man and a woman that I worked closely with at Best Western had both lost relatives that morning: one was flying on one of the planes and the other had been working in one of the towers. There was so much sadness in our office and it was hard to see the anguish on their faces when they came back to work after burying their loved ones. )
My dad finally called a couple of hours later to say he was safe and that Donna had flown home just the night before on the 10th. I finally breathed a sigh of relief. I didn’t care that he had to stay another few nights being grounded out of town. He was GROUNDED. That was all that mattered.
I remember driving to work later that day and each day after that and eyeballing each airplane that flew over my car. I was paranoid for a very long time. Living near Sky Harbor Airport did not help matters.
I still can’t think of that day without trying to suppress my tears. It truly does feel like it could have happened yesterday because it is so vivid in my mind. My conversation with my brother….I will never forget our exact words. I remember my Dad mentioning after it happened that this is how people talked about “where they were” after JFK was killed, or the day people first saw a person walk on the moon.
Never Forget. He wasn’t exaggerating. Everyone I know remembers exactly what they were doing when those planes hit and those towers fell. Surreal.
Because of 9/11, I never went to work at Best Western. They had to start cutting back immediately. People stopped traveling and the industry stopped booming like it had been. It was such a sudden standstill of our country as a whole.
Today I didn’t watch news coverage. I don’t need to because the images are burned in my mind forever. I will never forget the image of bodies throwing themselves out of a building. I don’t tell my children about it yet. Someday I will….but not yet.
Tonight I DID watch a part of a show about the entire event. It was rolling cameras that were following the firefighters from a certain house in NYC around that day before anything had even happend. Just a documentary on a young man becoming a firefighter. Wow….he had no idea what that day was about to hold for him. I enjoyed listening to them tell their firsthand account and wanting to cry with them. I didn’t need the photos….just their voices and words to honor this day in my mind.
I pray today for all of those sweet babies that lost their parents and all of those parents that lost their grown children. Heartbreaking. I pray that it doesn’t happen again to innocent people. I pray for all of the first responders that have to relive this day EVERY SINGLE DAY in their minds.
I just pray and love my family. It’s all we can do.