Everyone vividly remembers where they were and what they did on September 11, 2001. Last year, for AG’s September blog, my mother Rebecca recounted her unique perspective of living through that day from the White House. Like many others, I remember watching the events unfold with heartache and confusion. But it was also very terrifying for me because my parents were both working in D.C. serving President Bush, and not only did I not have any knowledge of their safety, but I knew that the White House, where my mom was officed, was a likely target for the 3rd unaccounted for plane.
I was 14 then, so I understood the severity of the acts of terrorism we all witnessed and the weight of worry that hung on every adult’s face. I also knew that my parents, working in D.C., were in danger. This starkly contrasted with my brother Caleb’s memories of the day – he was only seven and was never told or considered that D.C. would be in the line of fire, and he wasn’t immediately aware of the impact this day would have on the rest of our lives.
When we heard the news, the teachers at my school (just outside of D.C.) brought us to the chapel to pray and reassured us that we’d be safe. Many of us had parents working in D.C., but with communications down, we could not know if they were okay. Although prayer was a comfort, I also wrote a letter to my parents to try to make sense of what was happening. In the letter – which part of me was sure they’d never get to read – I wrote that I would be strong and care for my brother no matter what happened.
The day continued to be surreal. We didn’t have any family in Virginia, but my cul-de-sac friends were there for us and took immediate action to ensure Caleb and I were cared for. My friend’s parents brought me home, and two moms called nonstop to reach my parents by cell phone. Caleb had not been let go early as his school administrators decided to keep the 1st graders in class until a parent could pick them up. After waiting and waiting, no parent in sight, he finally got on the bus to head home. When I saw him, I hugged my little brother tightly and hoped we’d see my parents soon. The hours were stretched incredibly long as I waited. I watched the news on TV, desperate for reassurance but only seeing despair and grief as so many mourned the horrors of the day. When my parents finally walked through the door, we had a very tearful reunion, and finally, I found solace amidst the chaos.
Over the next few days, our television screen continued to broadcast scenes of destruction, heroism, and heartbreak. I watched as first responders rushed towards danger, as people from all walks of life came together to support one another. I saw the President addressing the nation, his words echoing determination and unity. A sense of resilience emerged through the confusion – a determination to rebuild and stand strong in the face of adversity.
As the weeks passed, my mother’s work at the White House intensified. My dad also served President Bush’s Administration, so they each left early in the morning to drive from Manassas, VA, to DC. It was common for them to return in the evenings at 6:30 or 7 p.m. At first, the day after 9/11, I had a lot of anxiety about my parents returning to D.C. each day, especially for my mother’s work at the White House. But she told me stories of how leaders were coming together to make difficult decisions and working tirelessly to ensure the safety and security of our country. I looked at her with a newfound respect, realizing that her job in the White House was not just about paperwork and meetings but about contributing to something much larger than herself.
My innocent view of the world was certainly shaken that day. But as I watched my mother and father go to work each morning, strong and resolute, I began to understand the importance of courage, unity, and perseverance. My parents have always demonstrated tremendous inner strength through crisis or chaos. While the events of 9/11 would forever be etched in our memories, the way we responded – with compassion, bravery, and a commitment to stand together – became a beacon of hope for a brighter future. As the world processed its collective anguish and I processed my personal trauma into adulthood, I understood that our world may have been scarred, but it was also strengthened by the bonds we forged through the tragedy. As I remember that day through the eyes of a 14-year-old, I hold onto the belief that even in the darkest moments, a glimmer of light can guide us forward.
Even though it has been over two decades since the severe loss of 9/11 hit America, we must never forget, we must never relent, and we must always value and appreciate the freedom we share as Americans and the love for our Country and fellow Americans that make us such a great Nation. 9/11 is a time to remember… we must always remember.