I remember. It was a glorious September day…and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my computer. All the regular feeds were dark. Then I turned on the news and saw the terrible evens unfolding in real time. The planes crashing. The buildings falling. The Pentagon. The World Trade Center. New York. United Airlines flight 93.
We got the kids up and I took them to school. At the time, both were attending our parish school at St. Elizabeth Anne Seton. So, there was Mass before school. The priest, Fr. Scott Medlock, tried to make some sense out of the day’s horrible events. I asked him yesterday if he remembers what he talked about.
“Not really,” he said.
Me, neither. It was something about praying for everyone involved—and we certainly were OK with that.
After Mass, on our way to school, Fr. Scott came out and said school was canceled. He said there was a hijacked plane on its way to Anchorage and we were to go home.
So that’s what we did. In shock.
There was no hijacked plane. The plane, tho’, continued to Whitehorse, in Canada, where it joined several other planes bound for Anchorage. The Yukoners hosted them for about a week.
I’m haunted by the story a friend shared with me a little while later. Maria (not her real name) was traveling with a colleague to New York. They were scheduled to make a presentation the morning of Sept. 11 on one of the top floors at the WTC Towers.
The evening before,Sept. 10, 2001, they went out and had a really good time. So good, in fact, that Maria woke up with a massive hangover. Her colleague said “No problem…I can do the presentation. You get some rest.” Or something to that effect. Maria went back to sleep.
She was awakened by the explosion nearby when the plane hit the first tower. She never heard from her colleague again.
About the same time, my cousin, who worked for a defense contractor at the Pentagon, watched in horror on the TV as the towers crumbled. Then he saw flames coming from the Pentagon on the TV(his office was about a mile away). He called his son’s apartment, which was closer to the Pentagon. His daughter-in-law said the plane that crashed into the Pentagon had just flown right over their apartment building (about 10 feet) and she saw it crash. “She had a bird’s eye view,” he said.
At that time, Father Scott’s boss, Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz, was attending a meeting of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC. The meeting started on the morning of Sept. 11—and lasted for about an hour until it was canceled.
“We were on our own to try and get back to where we were staying and to make arrangements to get home,” he said.
It was several days before AB Schwietz was able to secure a reservation. His original ticket departed Washington’s Reagan Airport, which still was closed.
He checked in at Dulles Airport. The agent at the counter stopped him and asked him to pray for her.
She had sold two of the hijackers tickets on one of the planes that crashed on 9/11.
“I still was in a state of shock,” said Schwietz. “I honestly could not give her words of comfort or to console her. Finally, I promised I would pray for her.
“I will never forget her.”
There are thousands of stories of the broken lives, the tragic deaths and the cascading catastrophes that seemed to mirror the towers’ descent to the earth.
Travelers were particularly affected by the events on 9/11. New security protocols (TSA) continue to target travel infrastructure and individual travelers.
This weekend, as these horrible images are replayed one more time, let’s pray for each other, for our leaders and for our country. Let us honor those who perished on that day, including those first responders in New York and Washington.
It is a fitting tribute to those souls taken from us on that day to do our part to end the rolling COVID-catastrophe that has set our country on fire.
PS–later that day, I sat down and wrote an issue of the Alaska Travelgram. Here it is:
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