11 September 2006

What Were You Doing?

My sister-in-law encouraged me to write what I was doing that day, when the attacks happened. First, let me say that I have some great and treasured memories of the towers. I remember only months after my brother was killed in that horrible auto accident, my mom and his girls came to visit Cindi and me. We were vicaring in Garfield, NJ. I remember that we looked out the towers toward New Jersey, and then later drove up into the hills in NJ and looked back at the towers. A few years later, I remember walking across the Brooklyn Bridge one magical summer evening with some dear friends, and passing beneath their gigantic shadows in lower Manhattan. I remember my first trip to the top and looking down when I was a student at Bronxville - I'm terrified of heights but leaning the head against the glass and looking down didn't scare me too much. They seemed so stable and secure, so immovable.

So, that day I went to school as I usually do to lead the opening and teach catechism classes - my two girls were home sick that day. The principal's wife called to say that one of the towers had been hit, and we started watching the coverage on TV. When word came out about Washington (and initially remember it was all confused - fires reported all over the place!), I rushed home to try to get the phone and call my sister, who works at the FBI to see if she was alright (turns out my niece gave birth that day, so she wasn't even at work!). But of course by then, you couldn't get through to anyone. I walked back to the school to see what we could do about comforting the children, and I remember they shouted at me when I walked through the door that one of the towers had come down. I remember blinking in astonishment. I told them that was impossible. They'd have to see the towers. There is no way one of them could come down. And then we watched in astonishment at the second tower fell.

And all I could think of was all the people. I knew that the Twin Towers were more like a medium-sized city than just a building. We turned off the TV after the images began to get too graphic for the school children. We prayed and read Scripture and tried to get on with the day. I don't remember if we succeeded or not. I seem to recall that maybe we closed school early because people just needed to be with their families. I'm not sure about that anymore. But I remember the numbness and just watching CNN and Fox non-stop in our family room and trying to make sense of it all.

And, like my sister-in-law, I remember the silence. We are not all that far from St. Louis, and it is not unusual to be able to spot several planes in the sky at any given moment. By noon that day the only sound from the sky came from the military jets that flew by a few times (Scott AFB is not far to the south). Even the traffic on I-55 seemed to lighten up enormously.

I thought about my friends who live in Manhattan - Pastors Brooke Swertfager and Bill Baum. I prayed for them. I prayed for those that they'd be ministering to. And then there was just the waiting to understand, to make some sense out of it all. I think I went into the church and just sat in silence for quite a while too, and I think I prayed the litany more than once as that day and the ones that followed wore on.

Those are my memories of the day.


Anonymous said...

May their memory be eternal.


Pam Nielsen said...

Might I add my memory of that day? Five years ago I was serving at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne. On my eight minute drive to work my father (the veteran of 3 wars) called and said, "We are under attack." He knew, even with only the first tower being hit. By the time I got to the seminary and to my desk in Community Services the second Tower had been hit. The students and professors were into their 8:00 a.m. classes, they had no idea. The news spread quickly among the staff, faculty and few students who did not have an early class. Chapel was slated for 10:00 following the morning class block. President Wenthe and the Chapel staff quickly pulled together what was appropriate while my staff ran from classroom to classroom to tell the men what had happened and encourage them to come to chapel. Kramer Chapel was filled that morning and the memory etched in my mind is that as the chapel service went on, the singing became more intense and the participation of the people ever increasing. Dr. Wenthe announced to those assembled the news of the morning and led us in prayer. As we got to the Creed, and rose to confess our faith, my memory is that it was spoken with such convicition, the voices nearly shouting the words by the Second Article. In the midst of such obvious sin and death it was a most profound realization of the Hope within us, the Hope that we shared. There have been many times that the worship in Kramer Chapel was amazing but that morning there in that holy place - well, I will never forget it and how God served and fed us there for the news which followed that day and beyond.

Thanks for the opportunity to recall and share my memory of that morning.

Deaconess Pamela Nielsen