“September 11th, 2001. For as high as our national debt is today, we owe much more to the men and women who were in the towers, on the planes, and in the Pentagon that fateful morning. We must never forget, and move forward as a nation. For as long as we’re here, they haven’t won. Always remember.”
I read this today on Facebook. It was the status update of my fifteen year old son. I asked him where he got the quote, and he looked at me as if the question was absurd: “It’s my own. I was thinking about it this morning.”
He’s quite a kid. Although he was only five when the attacks happened, he has been keenly aware that had his dad been scheduled for a different route that day, our lives would have been torn apart like the families of the three thousand victims of 9/11. My ex-husband is a commercial airline pilot, on international routes. He was scheduled to fly that day out of Newark.
I was leaving the doctors office that morning, when word of the first plane came over the radio. I remember thinking, it must have been a Cessna, following instruments only, and there must have been a malfunction. I got to work in time to see the second plane hit, as the entire staff huddled around the television. And then there was a third, and a fourth. I received a frantic phone call from the guidance counselor at the elementary school, needing to know if my then husband was flying. I told her I wasn’t sure where he was, and called her back ten minutes later when I heard from him. He was on his way to the airport when he received the call that all flights had been cancelled. She assured me there would be no discussion of the events at the school that day, so that my kids could come home and we could talk to them how we saw fit.
We spent the next several days in a state of shock, glued to the TV, trying to figure out how the world had become such an insidious place. Because of their father’s job and their young age, we told the kids the basics. There was an explosion in the towers, and at the Pentagon, and the towers had fallen. When they asked a few days later how the explosion happened, we told them as much as they wanted to know. When flight ops resumed, we did our best to reassure them that daddy would be okay. He called at every layover, even just to leave a message telling them what time it was, and where he was. He woke them up in the middle of the night when he got home, so they could go back to sleep knowing he was safe.
In the ten years that have passed, we have divorced, and we each have remarried. We have fought, laughed, fought some more, found neutral ground, but raised our kids the best we could in what for us is still uchartered territory. Today, I am thankful for the fights, the stress, and the commonality we strive to find, for the sake of my children. I listened to the families read the names of the victims this morning, and wonder how their lives would be different had that day not happened. I wonder if there were unspoken words, unresolved conflicts, or unreached dreams. I cried with the children who read the names of the mothers they don’t remember, and the fathers they never knew.
I watched my son watch a young man his own age reading his father’s name, and I cried as my son bowed his head to pray. Then I bowed my own and joined him. Love fiercely. Live with purpose. Never miss an opportunity to let someone know they matter. And always remember.
Karen Cluxton lives in Hatfield, PA, and has three teenagers – Halle 16, Owen 14, and Grace 13. Between shuttling kids to soccer, baseball and physical therapy, she trains in Mixed Martial Arts.