The day started out like any other. My hubby (then fiancee) and I, had to be up by 6 to work by 8. Everything went according to the usual routine. Shower, breakfast and then my long trek up Route 3 to the Garden State Parkway before heading North on Route 17.
We had only been in Jersey since May and already I was tiring of the commute and traffic. We didn't realize that it even though we lived in a town, it would feel more like a city with it's constant motion. It wasn't until after the move from Western, NY to Bergen County, NJ that I realized I truly was a small town girl at heart.
My hubby was working in Union, NJ. As he headed South on the Garden State Parkway, I headed North. At the time I was working as a retail manger. The store was silent when I arrived as sleepy employees were slowly making their way in and the overnight crew was winding up their shift. I went about my normal routine of making sure everything was neat and back filling stock. The night crew manager was working on the floor near me, pulling excess merchandise back to the stockrooms. He disappeared for a few minutes. When he reappeared it was to share with me the most shocking news I'd hear to date. A plane had flown into one of the Twin Towers. We all gathered around to talk about it, bewildered that something so tragic had happened. The store opened a few minutes later but the usual crowd that rushed the doors wasn't there. It was a prelude of the day to come. We then heard the news that the second tower had been hit by another plane. All I could think was that this could not be an accident. I was worried and a bit scared. My fiancee was an hour away from me, no close friends or family near by. I tried to make a few calls but the lines were all busy. By 10:30 upper management decided to close for the day and gave us permission to leave. The world was eerily quiet outside. The normal hustle and bustle of Route 17 was gone. By that I mean, where one would normally see traffic crushed together along the busy route cutting through Bergen County, it was only speckled by the occasional car. This made me all the more scared. It solidified that something tragic and life altering was occurring all around us. By now, word had spread like wildfire that an act of terrorism had brought down both the twin towers and many people were dead and injured.
I decided to drive straight down 17 to go home. If any of you have driven Route 17 in NJ you know you can see the Manhattan skyline in the distance. To my horror, all I could see was billowing smoke. Dark, thick and ominous looking. Before that very day, I had always taken for granted the amazing sight of the twin towers on the horizon. Well, not really for granted. More like the expected sight of a dear friend. Now, I felt fear crawling up and down my back as I drove closer to the darkness in the distance. I was terrified. I wanted my fiancee and I wanted my mom. I wanted them at that very moment so badly it was hard to hold back the sobs clawing to get out of my throat. I had continued to try reaching them on my cell phone and couldn't get through. I had heard that the lines were over capacity. I silently chanted in my head....please ring, please ring, please ring. Over and over again to no avail. I felt fear. I felt sadness and bewilderment. Many people I worked with that morning knew people that worked around the World Trade Center. They were haunted by their fears that loved ones were dead, injured, missing... I almost felt guilty for my feelings because I knew of no loved ones in the vicinity. Thankfully, my fiancee, wasn't interviewing in the city that day as he had been over the last few months. I prayed to God in relief and thanks that he was safe.
Just thinking back to that fateful day sends my heart pounding and my eyes tearing up. I will never shake those feelings of helplessness. I was lost, a stranger in a strange land. I had no one to comfort me. I made it home to our house. The first floor of a two family house. All was quiet. I paced the living room, cell phone in hand, land line in the other glancing silently out the window watching the billowing smoke from the skyline a mere 20 minutes from where I stood. The news of the attacks playing over and over again on the tv in the background. I just wanted to talk to my fiancee and see if he was coming home. I needed the comfort of my mother's voice. All of a sudden I heard a loud roaring noise, the whole house shook violently and I trembled helplessly where I stood. I swear I thought a bomb was being dropped and my life was over. It turned out to be an air force fighter jet that was making passes over and nearby the city. Within moments of that I was finally able to reach my mom. We cried as we heard each other's voice. She was so terrified that we might have been in the city that morning. She was relieved that I was safely at home. Not long after that I was able to talk with my fiancee. His boss was not allowing anyone to leave. I was so happy to hear his voice but heartbroken that he couldn't come home and hold me. All I wanted was for someone to hold me, soothe me and tell me everything was going to be alright.
I know that so many people went through much worse than I did that tragic, fateful day. I pray for them. I hope they have been able to find some sort of peace. I do not know how they have pushed through, just that it is human nature to keep living even if it's day to day, moment to moment. I pray for so many things. I pray for peace, hope and happiness.
So, during the last hour of Sunday, May first when it was announced that the mastermind of it all...Osama Bin Laden had been located and killed I was grateful. Not jubilant. But grateful. I can not celebrate the killing of another but it is closure. I am glad he can no longer hurt anyone else. He deserved death and more, but it is not my place for that. I thank President's Bush and Obama for never giving up. I give gratitude for our troops for all they do, day in and day out. Without them and their brave actions there would be no closure. I'm very aware that we now have to be on our highest alert for fear of retaliation. I'm realistic. I know that his followers will want payback. I can only hope that Bin Laden's death will weaken them and that the cells will slowly deteriorate without his leadership. I'm doubtful, but I can hope. America is the land of the brave. Where those who wanted freedom came to be strong and hoped for change. We will survive and grow stronger from this tragedy. As I listened to President Obama's news conference I felt hope and relief. I feel the strength and resilience of the American people.
President Obama's closing statement said it best: "Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America."