Published: September 14, 2016
BY JENNIFER PARSONS
So this past Sunday while having breakfast I noticed the Americana fanfare kicking off the afternoon NFL game and it hit me – it was Sept. 11 and I hadn’t realized. A little stunned by this I asked my husband where he was 15 years ago and we talked about our experiences. It was the first time in a long time that I had thought to ask the question “where were you on 9/11?”
Everyone has a story of where they were “when” and after about five years I just stopped asking the question. Partially because I experienced a personal tragedy a few years later at the same time of year that has taken up residence in my memory but also because where we were has become less relevant me, and what we are doing now with our experiences has come to the forefront.
Sept. 11, 2001 I was 21 years old living in Canada’s Capital, a few years into my career. I was a member of the public service union which had decided on rotating strikes and that morning I was lying in bed wondering whether getting up to picket was worth my time when the news reported the first strike. By the time the towers fell I was on the phone with one of my closest friends whose parents lived a stones throw away from the Pentagon and was getting ready to head out into a city that was so scared that they could be the next target.
For a few years after on the anniversary I would tune into the coverage, dedicate hours to the specials on the first responders, those lost in the towers, the political intrigue and the engineering questions and structural designs. I found it fascinating and terrifying thinking what it would’ve been like if Canada had been the target.
Until one year when I was called home unexpectedly and had to fly on a Sept. 11.
I had never been scared to fly except booking that ticket gave me pause but I had no choice – I took a deep breath, booked the ticket and….nothing happened. I came home to be with my family and in affect left behind the negativity and anxiety that came with my memories.
Recalling the terror in my friend’s voice that day as she talked with her mom for hours who was on the other end of the line in Washington standing in a window watching down the street waiting for any sight of her husband still brings a tear to my eye but it also prods me to hug my husband a little tighter and love my life more and more each day.
Since 2001 I have become a better friend, a believer in a strong national security, a supporter of local first responders networks, and a vocal and informed Canadian. I sometimes forget what day it is because the feeling of growth and compassion for everyone affected has never left me.
However, I did spend some time on Sunday reading “We’re the only plane in the Sky”, a recount of 9/11 from those who were on Air Force One with President Bush. Fifteen years later these folks still have a chilling story to tell.