My mother always said that she remembered everything about the moment she heard the news the JFK was shot. Similarly, most of us, who are old enough, probably remember where we were on 9/11/2001. Personally, I received the news about the twin towers after I walked through a deserted airport, which normally would have been packed with passengers. I heard the news on the radio as I boarded the shuttle to the rental car lot. I saw the news footage as I rented a car in St. Louis, Missouri. It took a while for everything to process.
Having been raised in a military family, I knew my duty was to get my job done that day. I was supposed to inspect a piece of property on the banks of the Mississippi River, visit the courthouse to review some records, and then fly home that afternoon. While inspecting the property, I attempted to make several calls, but most of the circuits were busy. I finally contacted my parents in Upstate New York, who assured me that they were alright and fighter jets were overhead. My dad gave me a succinct synopsis of the situation and advised me to get home by any means possible, as soon as possible. I talked to my co-workers in Frederick, MD, who were waiting for news of loved ones who worked in the Pentagon. By then, all flights were cancelled indefinitely and my rental car agency wouldn’t let me change my reservation to a one-way rental. So I called home and had my husband do what he could do buy me a bus ticket, back to Columbus, OH, home at the time. I finished my inspection of the property and skipped the courthouse visit. It didn’t matter, the courthouse was already closed.
Thankfully, the attacks were over, but the aftermath was just beginning. I dropped my rental car off at the airport and took a cab to the bus station. There was a line three blocks long waiting for bus tickets. The cab driver gave me his card and told me to call if the bus failed. He would take several of us to Ohio. I pushed to the head of the line, apologizing to those waiting, and explained that I already had a ticket, which was true. I picked it up at the ticket counter and waited for the bus to load. It was a full bus. Then, we sat there for hours on the bus. The driver patiently explained that they hadn’t cleared any mass transit to cross the Mississippi River yet. I settled in with a book to escape and save my phone’s battery. It was going to be a long night.
Early in the evening, they cleared us to cross the river and travel to our next destination. At each stop, we had to wait for clearance to continue, to get closer to the East Coast, to get closer to family and the carnage. At 2 am, we stopped in Indianapolis and were cleared to drive to Dayton. I called home and asked to be picked up in Dayton. I couldn’t wait any longer to get home to my boys. They were only one and three, but as the time ticked on, the need to hold them amplified. I was one of the lucky ones. I was on a bus full of people who were supposed to be flying somewhere. Most of them couldn’t reach their families. I was lucky. My family was home and safe.
A few years later, I was working in Manhattan with a group of firefighters and hospital workers. They shared their recollections of that day. One firefighter was living with the guilt of being out on medical leave that day. He had broken his back while fighting a fire. His whole fire house perished that day. The hospital workers shared how they prepared their emergency rooms and trauma centers, but the victims never arrived. It was a sobering experience. Again, I was one of the lucky ones.
Why am I sharing this on a quilt blog? As many of us know, quilting is therapeutic. My Never Forget quilt is my therapy to cope with 9/11. I was one of the lucky ones that day. But we were all touched by the events that transpired after it. That day galvanized support for the US and brought us together in spirit. Since then, we have fractured. Never Forget was created to honor those who lost their lives as well as to remember that we can do so much more together than we can as individuals. We came together that day and need to come together again. That is my fervent hope.
So I pour myself into Never Forget, a little more each year. This year I moved from my finish piecing pile into my needs to be quilted pile. Next year, maybe I will be able to quilt it and bring it all together – as I hope we can all come together again.
God Bless and Happy Quilting