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I now treasure every day

It was a typical work day at the newspaper in Georgia where I was editor. People were scrambling to put finishing touches on that week’s edition, and I was holed up in my office trying to make sense of a county commission meeting story I was writing, while at the same time laying out pages.

Patty, our typist, was off Tuesday and when she called right after 8:46 a.m. to say a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers, I initially thought it was pilot error.

Twenty minutes later, she called back and said she was on her way into the office with TV in arms–another plane had crashed into the South Tower. This was no pilot error.

In about 10 minutes, Patty appeared and plopped her kitchen TV on the front counter. All the staff gathered round  and watched in utter amazement at the events that were unfolding.

I remember the looks on my co-workers faces as they stared at that 7-inch TV, not believing what they were seeing. I was lingering at the back of the huddle, torn between watching the TV and deciding if I should return to my desk.

And then the third plane hit the Pentagon–three plane crashes in 51 minutes. It was no coincidence. My co-workers were looking to one another for answers, and finding none.

I remember pulling away from Denise’s side, leaning on the steel and glass door that faces west–Atlanta. Would it be next? After all, Hartsfield is the busiest airport in the United States and we were perilously close.

With my head on the cool glass, I closed my eyes and prayed.

When I  finished, I headed back to my office to work toward deadline.

“Where are you going?” Denise asked.

“There’s work to be done,” I said.

I sat at my computer and stared blankly at the screen.

I tried calling home to hear comforting words from my then-husband, but the answering machine picked up.

A call came for me within seconds, and thinking it was from home, I answered.

It was my son’s teacher, saying that his behavior the day before was atypical and she was concerned.

I just wanted to scream at her that it wasn’t important. We were under attack and the fact that he thumped one of his friends on the head was inconsequential but then I realized she had no idea what was happening outside the classroom. So I let her drone on and on while I did Internet searches for news.

And then the plane went down in Pennsylvania. And I cried.

I did a lot of that over the days that followed. I was obsessed with the news. I wanted to hear and see everything.

Sept. 11, 2001 was  the third and final event that happened to me in three months that changed my life into what it is today.

Fragile. Vulnerable. Precious. Words. Adjectives to describe life. My life.

And because of Sept. 11, a few weeks later I took steps to ensure that I never took another day of my life for granted.

I made life-changing decisions, set personal goals and truly began to treasure every day.

I still get emotional about that day. I tear up when I  think about the loss of life. The mothers who lost children and the children who were orphaned. The wives who kissed their husbands goodbye that morning not knowing it would be the last time. The men who attempted rescues to only perish themselves.

I now realize that just because we are Americans in America we can never  rest easy-we must always be diligent and aware. There’s no such thing as safe anymore.

And that’s sad.