Everyone has a 9-11 story. Some seem more significant than others. Mine is one of the least significant, because I was not working in New York or D.C., I was not on a plane that day, and I didn’t personally know anyone affected directly by the deaths.
But as I have heard the ordinary stories from that day, I have learned that it touched us all in different ways. Sometimes the seemingly insignificant occurrences can become pivotal down the road.
My day began as usual, in my apartment shared with Lexi on the south side of Des Moines. One of my nerdy tendencies is listening to and half watching the Today Show when I get ready in the morning, and it was no different ten years ago. I remember Matt and Katie breaking in with the news that a plane had crashed into the first tower. And I will never forget the first words. Lexi’s boyfriend made a comment something like, “Some drunk guy having too much fun,” and I said, “No, that’s something a crazy terrorist would do.” Those words still haunt me. Little did any of us know what was to come in the following minutes, hours, days, and years.
I finished getting ready for work and went downtown to a bank, where I worked in an office upstairs, as I was at that time the only staffer for the Sukup for Governor campaign. Another business had offices upstairs, and I remember someone poking his head in my door telling me to come see the news. I walked down the hall where several people were gathered around a TV. Wow.
It didn’t set in until I talked to my boss on the phone, and he said to stay off the phones for the day, that this news story was capturing everyone’s attention and no one cared about campaigns that day.
Then I walked down to the Republican Party of Iowa headquarters just a few blocks away – the old rented space, before they bought the old funeral home. I walked into the conference room and sat with Darrell, where we watched in amazement at the news developments. Darrell kept saying, “Where is our President? We need to hear from him.” And he referenced Pearl Harbor a few times. This was officially a big deal.
Finally President Bush issued a statement. He had been in Air Force One, receiving updates and staying safe. The news gradually unfolded to tell a story of a group of extremists led by Osama bin Laden.
The rest of the “work day” was a blur, and then I drove home at around 5:30 p.m. It was a short day, since I usually worked until 9:00 p.m. I, like many others, was wondering what all of this would do to gas prices, the economy, and on and on. I pulled over at the Quick Trip and waited in line for 20 minutes to fill up my car. I could have waited until the next day, but why risk it?
I was glued to CNN, Fox News, and all of the news channels for the rest of the evening. Lexi and I chatted about it, and I talked to a few people on the phone.
So many things we take for granted as Americans were challenged that day. However, in the days and weeks that followed, those things we take for granted were very much intact. We came together to support one another during a tough time. We rallied around the flag.
Of course, it didn’t take long for politics to divide us again. But it’s good to know that we can put politics aside when we have no other choice. That is my lasting take away. Sometimes it’s good to kick politics aside and just be real.