Ten Years and Forever

Macy's Ad in the Sunday Times on Nine Eleven Twenty Eleven

There’s something about those frozen-in-time events that we share. The ones where we all immediately recall where we were when they happened; when we heard. They somehow encapsulate a moment into this immutable snapshot that we carry and share and reflect upon when other milestone moments occur.

Ten years later, life is very different for me and the concrete contrast of the content of that day and this one causes me to reflect on more than the shared experience of Nine Eleven.

So, I remember.

I remember that I was driving from my home to my therapist’s home office on a sunny Tuesday morning. I was listening to the radio and the host was making some crack about how bad a pilot has to be to crash into a 110 story building. Todd Ethridge cut in to say something like, “Dude. That’s not funny. We don’t joke about stuff like that.” I love Todd — he’s a good guy who, at the time, was fronting a band called the Throwbacks. We’d go see them perform 80s covers whenever they played. It was one of the few things the wasband and I continued doing together as our marriage fell apart.

And that’s how the memories go. It’s never linear. Each moment pulls a thread of narrative that leads you to memories you’ve left boxed up for a decade.

I continued driving and learned that it wasn’t a small plane — as originally thought — but a commercial jet. Such a tragic accident. How awful for those families…

And then there was the second one.

I arrived at pj’s and a man was waiting outside — oblivious to the most recent information. I blurted, “They’re bombing us with our own planes!” We exchanged a few sentences about what was happening before he rushed to his car to turn on the radio.

pj had been in sessions all morning and didn’t know what was happening outside, on this gorgeous September morning. How do you break that sanctuary — in this dark, quiet office where you come for respite and healing and to look at the hard parts of your existence? I somehow did.

And so it went.

I emerged from that space to the horror that two more planes were down. And then there were the reactions and the overreactions, if you can overreact when planes with real people are being crashed into buildings with real people. The rumors about gas lines being shut down, more planes, poisoned water supplies, and on and on spread. I ignored them. Some members of my larger family talked about stocking up and going to our mountain retreat. I ignored them, too. I was scheduled to speak at a conference in Nashville and decided to take my family with me.

Decisions. Lots of worry. Lots of wondering. Lots of news, until I picked Berns up from preschool. I did not want him to know or see or hear this horror. Gillian was only 6 months old. She wouldn’t remember this day, and I somehow hoped it wouldn’t become a part of her childhood that colored things in heathers.

If I had an album from that week it would have images of  the corner of Kingston Pike and Smith Road where I was when Todd shared the news, pj’s dark office, the smoldering field in Pennsylvania, the napping preschoolers, the gashed side of the Pentagon, the Volvo station wagon that became our refuge, the TVs everywhere with those planes hitting the towers and those towers falling again, my tiny children sequestered in a room, the conventioning news editors scrambling to get out of Nashville and back to their posts, the banquet hall filled with service coordinators who chose to listen to me when they were feeling the pull of the news, the people jumping from those buildings, the full Maxwell House hotel, newsprint flags, the drive from Knoxville to Nashville and back, the firefighters and the priests and the police officers and the smoke, the empty Opryland Hotel, the depressed rescue dogs who were trained to find life in that rubble, the first airplane overhead after days of silence.

The insult and miracle in grief is that in spite of cataclysmic loss, we carry on. We count the days and recount the events, but we carry on. We promise to change and honor and unite, yet we carry on. The moment becomes encapsulated and part of our memory forever, and we carry on. It’s been a day. It’s been a week. It’s been a month. It’s been a year. It’s been a decade. It’s been a lifetime. It’s been a millennium.

We mark the time. We carry on.


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About Gina Lynette

I have been called a, "PollyAnna, sugar-coated idealist." I like to think of myself as more optimistic than that.


  1. I remember. I was at work at The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. My office was at the corner of two hallways. Windows made up the corner wall on each hallway. I worked for the Athletic Director and was just settling in when the secretary from down the hall came in and said she heard on the radio that a plane had hit a skyscraper in New York. We thought it was a small private aircraft at first.

    I was the only one with a TV because when you work in sports you get to watch certain games at certain times. So we turned on the TV and saw the horror. She and I just looked at each other, covered our faces and cried. My boss came out and then the hallways were crowded with students peering in the windows to see the TV. My boss said all work would stop and opened the door so the students could come in and hear what was happening. There was not a dry eye in that room. I’ll never forget how my heart broke for those people in the planes, in the buildings and on the ground….how scared they must have been…..how absolutely, terribly, horribly, scared–a fear we cannot understand. We just kept saying, “How could someone do that to all those people?” I still do not understand.

    My heart goes out to the survivors, the families who lost loved ones, the police officers and firefighters. God bless them and God bless the U.S.A.

    • What a lovely post, Mama E. Thanks so much for adding it here.

      I tend to believe that if we asked three hundred million people about that day, we would get three hundred million personal and singular stories and find it somehow reassuring and catholic* that in spite of that fact we, somehow, feel like we experienced this together.

      *by “catholic” with a small-c, I mean universal, inclusive, collective, nonsectarian, ecumenical. I kept looking for a synonym without the Roman Church associations, but this kept being the word I meant.

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