When I was a little girl, my heart just burst with pride every time I was asked what my dad did for a living. With a big grin, I would answer, “he’s a pilot!”. I would go on to talk about the postcards from all the different cities he would send me in the mail. How every time he unpacked his suitcase when he got home from a trip, he always had the snacks from the airplane to give me as a treat. Almond Roca was my favorite. And, I would talk about the sacrifice. Even as a young girl, I knew that being a pilot’s daughter made life different. Santa came when he was home, and many times that wasn’t on Christmas Eve. The Easter Bunny had a different schedule too. But, I didn’t care. It never phased me one bit, because, MY DAD WAS A PILOT, the most interesting and amazing job a dad could have…
I never knew my dad’s schedule. He flew so often, to so many places. I was use to him calling me from Boston. New York. San Francisco. A new city every day. Hustling through one airport to the next. And so, the morning of September 11, 2001 as I was getting ready for my classes at Ball State, I had the Today Show on, like I did every morning. I watched as the first plane hit and like everyone else at the time, wondered what in the world could have happened on that plane for it to hit a building…still no thought that it could have been on purpose. Who would run an airplane into a building on purpose? How naive I was. Maybe, we all were. But then came the second plane, and that naivety vanished. The realization dawned quickly that BOTH of those planes were used as weapons.
And then, Oh. My. God. where is my dad?
WHERE IS MY DAD? All rational thought left me. I had NO idea what city he was in. If he was flying that morning or on a layover somewhere. He was a United pilot who flew that route ALL. THE. TIME. I called my stepmom and she didn’t pick up. I called my grandparents and thank God they did. Grandpa reminded me of what I knew, but had forgotten so quickly in those moments of panic. Dad was in Colorado. Far away from the smoke. Far away from the debris. Far away from the pure EVIL that had descended on New York City, Pennsylvania and then our nation’s capital. He was in Colorado training to fly a different plane. He was safe.
I will never forget the relief I felt in that moment. I finished getting ready and headed to Ball State, in a daze, really, and unsure what exactly to do. In my first class, the professor didn’t acknowledge what had happened. What was continuing to unfold. It was business as usual as we all sat looking at each other, wondering what was next. My next class, the professor came in and said, go home, THIS is not important today. And so, I went home and sat, transfixed to the news, as the world as we knew it, stopped turning.
I remember looking up and the sky was blue. And quiet. The sky was eerily still in Indiana that day, as all planes had been grounded across our great nation. I remember watching the members of Congress stand on the steps of the Capital Building singing God Bless America, and being so damn proud to be an American.
The images from that day will forever be etched in my mind. The sadness, the sorrow, the BRAVERY, the heroism. The unimaginable loss. The gut-wrenching pain, both physical and emotional. Those heroes who ran IN, while everyone else was running OUT. The passenger who said “Let’s Roll”. The search and rescue teams. The dogs. The women who gave birth without their husbands in the room because September 11th made them widows. The moms and dads who lost their sons and daughters. The despair. The wreckage. The HOPE.
I think about those pilots, who were just like my own dad, going to work, like any other day, but unlike my dad, never got to see their daughter’s walk across a graduation stage or walk them down the aisle. Those daughters who longed for their dads, not just during those big moments, but for every single small moment in between. Those daughters who have lived their lives since that horrible, horrible day, wondering what could have been different, had THEIR dad not been the one flying that plane, but instead training, far, far away.
Hearing Alan Jackson sing Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning, takes me RIGHT BACK to that awful day. Tears just roll down my face every time it plays.
My dad still cannot watch the videos. He knew at least one of those pilots. In every conversation I’ve ever had with him in the seventeen years since that day, he always says, “But for the grace of God go I.”
God Bless those who lost their lives on 9/11.
God Bless all of us who lived through that day and help us to NEVER FORGET.
God Bless those who lost a loved one on 9/11.
God Bless those pilot’s daughters.
As always, thanks for reading.