From Beth’s Journal

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

The day started as tedious, boring, and routine as life could be for us. But by the end of the day we would be so changed and so moved, and I was sure that everyone in the whole world would look at the sun and heavens with new wonder and awe that, prior to this day, had seemed so common and uneventful.

The children were all washed, fed, lunches-packed and raced out the door for the school bus. I caught my breath and refreshed myself with a sit-down and another morning coffee. I started making the usual plans for the day, and supper ideas for the evening fluttered through my head awaiting already the return of my boys from school. I thought about a shower, dishes and laundry that needed attending to. A computer game had me happy with anticipation. I’d reached a new level that was exciting and gave me a virtual reality jeep ride.

Johnny was out with a business chore; he walked in from the kitchen, stating matter-of-factly that something was being reported on the radio about a plane having hit the World Trade Center. My first thought was that of a small single-engine plane that had flown off-course. I know we went right to the TV news and saw with horror a giant hole with billowing black smoke rolling out and up into the clear blue sky from a great tall New York building. Immediately anyone could tell it was something big. Dust and litter fluttered around and down around the building. Paper and debris could be seen falling down around the building, and every once in a while heavier, dark chunks fell faster than the floating litter. Later we learned that some of the dark and falling chunks of debris were people and bodies falling along with plane and building materials that had exploded out of the impact area.

One of my plans before Johnny’s news was to call my girlfriend Beverly before I started my mundane day. Now I reached for the phone instantly and automatically dialed her number to tell her the news and to turn on the TV. She also had small children and housewife duties with a routine similar to mine. Although she wasn’t yet aware of how her life would not be the same again before our call that horrible, evil hour.

I think during my phone calls and while the planes were crashing that morning was when I started separating from my friends and from Johnny’s family. My soul and spirit didn’t seem the same as theirs. The planes were still crashing and information from the news was occurring before anyone’s minds could register the last incoming information. The mind seemed overloaded and had to keep processing to catch up. Then the body and emotions reacted to the images. The whole day was mind shock and emotional catch-up to a feverish pitch that people are caught up and in mourning now. Time is the people’s friend now, unless something else happens. Most people are cautious and continuing with their activities. Of course they’re all changed and thoughtful. Everyone is shocky and in mourning around the whole United States.

I was emotional, crying, and worried about my friend who works at the Bettis Atomic facility, just up the hill from our home. I thought planes might crash into nuclear areas. A million thoughts were trying to flood over my already-flooded mind. When things in my mind caught up I decided to allow the boys to stay at school for the day. We live near an airport and that too was a worry.

The week of horror was enduring. The mind and body constantly were in a state of flux. One word is processed from me that branches the whole ordeal into a giant, huge human-soul tree. The word is Freedom!

God’s freedom to us is one of his gifts that a man could study forever.

Wrongly taking advantage of a good thing

Beth is a copious journal keeper, and I’ve been transcribing some of her old journals, and our letters, for the purpose of telling her story in a fuller way. I came upon this selection this morning, from an undated journal entry some time soon after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks:

I believed that the attack was bigger than all of us and that everyone should help and work against this enemy. War was at hand and everyone was being called. America was changed and so were we all with it. [I was trying, unsuccessfully to communicate what I was thinking, and] I was shocked that these ideas hadn’t been thoroughly assimilated by everyone.

[My friend] Beverly said, “I’m staying right here and taking care of my babies. I’ll let “them” fight the war. (My thought was that those “them” were supposed to be us. They attacked our back yard! They’re at our door!) I thought to myself that there are a lot of people going to go to bed at night and get up the next morning while going about their lives as if the outside world would continue without them. To me the outside world had become all of our world. That there wasn’t an outside world any more.

I tried to explain that “they’re here!” If we don’t work or fight that there won’t be any “everyday life” again for our children. I’d seen it so drastically in my heart that to explain it in words was like showing them a picture, i.e., pretend you got up one morning and kissed your spouse goodbye in the morning, expecting to see them later for evening dinner and for all the family’s night time routines. But the spouse doesn’t come back! It’s permanent! There won’t be dinner and night time routine again. See, that’s how I saw America change. All of our routines will be changed from now on. Now we have to do all we can to keep what we can and to make America back again for our children and our children’s children, and so on …

Susie said, “That’s what you’re going to do to your family. You have children, you’re too old! Let ‘them’ handle it.” It was even worse from [Susie’s husband]. I used that thought to try and show them that without America there won’t be any families at all the way it could go. We are the “them” that needs to roll up our sleeves to make the “dinner and evening routines” without the returning spouse. But not literally. I’m not planning to go if they only want Soldiers for the Middle East. My thought is that “they’re” going to need people for all kinds of jobs and duties.

I was not among those who, at the time, thought “9/11 changes everything.” And Beth obviously was. In retrospect, we can look back and see that certainly it was a wake-up call, that we needed to be more vigilant for terrorism in our midst, but no, it had not “changed everything.” Except that it prompted over-reactions like this one.

But still, even here, we see a wink and a nod from Beth, that “I want to help, but not so much that I’m going to go all the way into the Middle East.” Yet that’s exactly where the chain of events in the next months prompted her to go.

I don’t want to say that Beth’s sentiment was a bad one. But those who were in a genuine position to know what the outside threats were, and who relied on such sentiments as hers in order to push for more aggressive responses than were necessary, have done us a great deal of harm.