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MamaVoices: September 11th Memories

We have all been touched by the tragedy of September 11th in some form or fashion. This month, we asked some of our Mamas to gather their thoughts and emotions from the events. Here are their feelings, their hearts, and their stories…

We have all been touched by the tragedy of September 11th in some form or fashion. Some of us lost loved ones, while others had no direct connection to the events whatsoever. Regardless of our link, we all share a kinship of patriotism. This month, we asked some of our Mamas to gather their thoughts and emotions from the events on September 11, 2001. What were they doing when they found out? How do they feel now? Here are their feelings, their hearts, and their stories…


I had a six-week, post-partum appointment scheduled for 11 on September 11, 2001. I don’t remember when I got out of bed that day, but it was probably in the 6-7 o’clock hour, the time when my impatient 3-year-old twins typically demanded “bwefis, now!”

I do remember tuning the kitchen radio to a talk station as I tried to quickly throw a breakfast together for the kids before I had to breastfed the baby again. Looking out the kitchen window at the cloudless New England sky, I observed that it was pretty warm out there so I wouldn’t have to bundle up the baby.

As I perused the newspapers sitting on the kitchen table, I wondered how much time I should allot for getting the twins, the baby and myself dressed. The suddenly alarmed tone of the radio talk show hosts diverted my attention from mundane logistical issues. A plane had crashed into a building in New York City, they said. I quickly turned on the TV to see for myself. My 3-year-old son walked into the room just in time for us to see the second airliner crash into the second tower. He heard me scream and saw tears flood my eyes and my hands cover my open mouth on what had suddenly become no ordinary day.

-Meredith O’Brien, Suburban Mom: Notes from the Asylum


I watched the horrific events of September 11th unfold on my television as my six month old daughter rolled happily on the floor. Tears streamed down my face and I'm sure my emotions mirrored those of most Americans on that day. But underneath the sadness, fear, and disbelief, I felt peace.

Wait, what? Time to back up a bit.

The prior spring, my husband had reluctantly left his military career of more than ten years. He loved serving America, but was frustrated by the lack of direction in the military at the time. He needed to be needed. So we moved around a few times, looking for a new purpose and a community that would enrich our lives.

The events of September 11th happened as my husband neared the end of his graveyard shift. He came home to our tiny house, in a tiny town, where I sat with our tiny baby. And I knew. My fiercely patriotic husband had found his sense of direction again. And I was so proud. And I felt peace in the knowledge that we, as a family, were on the right path.

This September 11th, he is again overseas working to keep people safe, to do what his country has asked of him, to bring peace. The horror of that day has faded, but its effects continue to shape our lives and those of every American, as we all strive for peace.

-Megan B., The Pages of Our Crazy Life


A lot has changed in my life in the last 8 years—I’ve found at least two new jobs, scored a husband and delivered 2 kids. For me, September 11th was a day filled with sorrow, fear and sympathy. It’s our family’s “close, but not quite” day and the aftermath has affected my views on what having a family means.

When my oldest brother graduated from college, he packed up for New York. He’s the type who could be called a local from day #1. As for me, I finished grad school and planted myself in San Francisco. By August 2001, I was drifting in the tech-bubble meltdown. I’d given up my commission-only job in San Fran and moved to Utah to hunker down and plan for life as a doctoral candidate. Nothing in my life was settled as I was looking for work, love and any path to happiness I could find. I left home before 6 a.m. that Tuesday morning, headed to one of my three temp jobs. On the radio, the announcer was talking about a plane hitting one of the World Trade Towers in New York. I imagined some student pilot clipping the wing of the plane and losing the chance to fly. Not until I reached my destination did I comprehend what was happening.

A 10-inch black and white television and a box of tissue were my only companions in the dingy conference room. A Fox News reporter was interviewing dusty people running away from Tower 1. My tears turned to panic as I thought of my brother. I called his cell phone. The call rang busy. In real time, I saw the feed from the shaky camera when a second plane hit Tower 2, 7:03 a.m. my time.

Nearly the same hour, over 200 miles away in Washington DC, my dad was presenting for his company to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee in the Capital Building. Once word reached Washington, the building was placed in lock down. As the hours ticked on, fiction became fact and the new world in which we live was becoming reality. He and his team were allowed to leave the building on foot that afternoon. As he walked out, my dad realized his luck. The last-minute postponement of the meeting from Monday to Tuesday meant he wasn’t on his original flight that morning, American Airlines 77. The morning flight from Washington-Dulles to Los Angeles had been hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon.

I tried to reach my dad. When we connected on the phone, he told me he’d talked to my brother. He was okay. He was in mid-town NY and would end up spending the day checking people into a church-turned-Red Cross Shelter. As for my dad, he was in a rental car, driving back home to North Carolina with some of his colleagues. He was looking out the car window at the Pentagon in flames as they inched down Interstate 95. It would take him twice as long to get home, but he was safe.

Many people suffered on September 11th. I’m humbled to say it was close, but not quite time for our family to endure such a loss. Since that day, I make a point to end each call and each visit with “I love you” since you never know when you may have missed the chance.

-Amy J.,


Sept. 11, 2001, began just like many mornings for me back then.

I was the court reporter at the The (Carlisle, Pa.) Sentinel, and I had to pick up a mug shot at Cumberland County Prison for that day's paper. In those days, I listened to Howard Stern a lot. And it was Howard Stern who broke the news to me as I headed back to the office with the mug shot in hand. At first, I wasn't even sure he was telling the truth. You know how Stern was always doing something wacky. But there was an edge to his voice, and I knew it was real.

When I walked into the newsroom, everyone was standing around the television. Only one plane had crashed at that point, and no one knew what to make of it. Then we realized it was a terrorist attack. And we quickly went from news watchers to news gatherers. We deployed reporters to various points of the county. When our city editor asked me to head to Harrisburg International Airport, I agreed.

As I headed to the airport, I listened to the news on the radio, and I heard that a plane went down in western Pennsylvania. I remember watching the skies as I drove, because at that point, it seemed like anything was possible. When I arrived at HIA, security was crazy. People were frightened. But I was able to talk to lots of people, including HIA officials.

While I reported throughout the day, I sort of shut down. I didn't give myself a chance to be afraid. I had a job to do, so I focused on the task at hand. I did eventually call my mom (who couldn't believe that I had gone to an airport!). I called my college roommate who lived near Washington, D.C. I called my other friends around the state, to make sure they were OK, too.

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I worked late into the night. I even had to cover a bank robbery that happened that afternoon, which seemed kind of silly given everything else that was going on.

When I finally drove home that night, the highway seemed strangely empty. I remember looking up at the starry sky and seeing one winking light. An airplane, I thought. Because the paranoia had crept into my brain, I called HIA to make sure the plane had a legitimate reason for being in the air. (It did, they told me.)

My then-boyfriend was asleep on the couch when I got home. I remember getting a beer and sitting down to watch the news. Watching the planes crash into the buildings and seeing them crumble broke my heart. So many people had died. And I sat on the floor of my little apartment and cried as a day's worth of information finally washed over me.

-Kara E.,


The morning was like most others. I was busy trying to put myself together and nagging my son to hurry up. I got him to school to board a chartered bus that would take him and the other sixth graders to the gloriously beautiful spot in Texas known as Enchanted Rock. The sixth graders were to participate in several days and nights of outdoor education, a part of the school’s curriculum.

The weather was good. I stood around in the parking lot of the school with other moms, chatting, catching up with each other. One mom friend was sitting in her new SUV – the one with the cool media screens in it – and she was watching an early morning news show.

The bus left with our children. My friend got out of her SUV to wave goodbye and came over to a group of us. “Have you heard?” “What?” “We’ve been attacked”. On it went. All of us were too shocked to say anything other than simple questions and listen to her answers. Then she said, “We are a nation at war now.”

My first reaction to that simple statement was, no, she’s just exaggerating. We aren’t at war. We had been through a long slumber of treating attacks to our military and embassies as though they were criminal acts, not acts of war. But, this proved to be a different attack. On our own soil. Thousands of our neighbors and visitors to our country were dead. It was too horrible to imagine. I went to the school library, where I was a regular volunteer, and sat at one of the little tables to let it all sink in, in quiet. Rumors were rampant. The school’s Internet access in the library was shut down so that students wouldn’t read news accounts before they could be told. Lots of airplanes were unaccounted for.

And, then the second attack.

My husband had landed in Hong Kong, on a business trip, in the wee hours of the morning here. My son was on a bus to an adventure. We were all scattered and it was a surreal feeling. I went home and watched the television coverage, as the rest of the nation did then.

Turns out, we are a nation at war.

-Karen T., Pondering Penguin


In September of 2001, I was working in my first communications job, for Industry Canada. I was also just over four months pregnant with my first son.

On September 11, I was busy writing a press release, and oblivious to the world outside when my cousin – himself a pilot – had called for something else and incidentally asked me if I’d seen what happened to the World Trade Center. We spoke for only a moment or two, as I had a regularly scheduled 9:00 am meeting to attend. I remember walking into the board room to see everyone huddled around a TV I’d never even noticed before, just in time to see the second plane hit the towers. We watched in slack-jawed horror, staring at the TV in mute silence punctuated by groans and gasps of dismay. Any pretense at holding the meeting abandoned as the events of the morning unfolded with increasing surrealism.

Not long after news of the Pennsylvania crash, we were called to another meeting and asked to go directly home. Our building in downtown Ottawa was just a few blocks from the Parliament Buildings, and seemed at risk should there be Canadian targets in the attack. My home near the airport seemed equally at risk. I rode the city bus home with tears in my eyes.

The rest of the day, and the following days, are a blur of CNN and CBC Newsworld coverage, with a near-constant lump in my throat. I had to keep reminding myself to breathe, not just for me but for the wee baby I was carrying. I was sick with sorrow, with anger, and with the fear of not knowing what life might be like for my baby in this unimaginable new world.

-Dani Girl, Postcards from the Mothership


I was in my car at the stoplight at 39th and 9th listening to then “107.5 The End”. I was driving up to my parent’s house to let their dog out since they were out of town. I listened as I drove to the news unfold and rushed right inside their house and turned on the t.v. I sat at the edge of their bed and watched the towers fall behind Peter Jennings. He didn’t realize that the tower had fallen behind him, but I did. I was stunned.

I was late to work that day and when I got there all we did was huddle around radios. Things felt so unpredictable. So unsafe. Just weeks before I had heard on NPR that Osama Bin Laden had threatened an attack on the U.S. I asked my dad if that could really happen, he said “he makes those threats all of the time”. It was the first time I had paused to think about that Osama Bin Laden.

I, like the rest of the country was glued to every moment that unfolded in the coming days and weeks. I stared at my t.v. and cried, I listened to the radio and cried, I saw flag plastered around my city and I cried. I wanted to remember the flags so I filled rolls of film with pictures of the flags that hung from people’s houses, and the flags that covered entire buildings and barns.

I questioned the world around me and I questioned whether I would seriously bring children into it. It’s not that a terrorist attack could halt reproduction in America, but it certainly was enough to give me pause to question the kind of world I would be bringing children into and the kinds of people that inhabit it.

Just 2 months later I was pregnant with our first child. Just the other day, that child told me that terrorists take over planes and crash them into buildings. He’s caught a small glimpse of the reality that came crashing down on me that day on September 11th 2001. The reality that the world is not an entirely safe place.

8 years and 3 kids later the world feels as unsteady as ever. However, without my 3 little people in it, this world wouldn’t be half as interesting, or full of goodness.

-Rachael Herrscher, TodaysMama


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