Where were you on 9-11-2001?; the most tragic, interesting, re-defining American day.
I had flown from my home in Iowa, to Scottsdale, Arizona, for a meeting. I was already hesitant to go on this trip, because I would be missing my son's 5th birthday. His birthday, is 9-11. I had promised to return home on the evening AFTER his birthday, on the 12th. On Tuesday, September 11th, at 8am central time, I'd just gotten off the phone wishing my daughter a great day, and my son Happy Birthday! Back home, my 10 year-old, and the little one, on his 5th birthday, were about to board the school bus. I hung up the phone. The terrorists struck, crashing 4 planes, into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and to a field in Pennsylvania!
A morning charity walk had been scheduled for us in the desert that day. On that early morning walk in the desert, with the sun in the east, and the Superstition mountains in the background, we passed some school children waiting for the bus. It began to sink in: How would I get home? When would I see my family? How many days would it be? For the first time in our lives, a war had been waged on American soil! Our freedoms had been threatened. One of the kids waiting on the curb in Scottsdale was playing a trombone, and his friends were laughing. It was one of those beautiful mornings in the desert. As those kids laughed by the busstop, the tears began pouring down my face. I felt the humanness as they boarded that school bus right in front of me, and I lost it. I wished I was putting MY kids on the bus back home. That morning, America's innocence was lost.
The keynote speaker at our meeting was Dr. Bob Arnot, the NBC News correspondent and flight expert. We had gathered in a large room, with big screen TV's, as events unfolded, with open microphones, so people could express themselves. Bob tried to help us process what we were witnessing; moments, frozen in time.
If I was going to keep my promise to my kids, I knew it was time to act. I took a cab to a nearby car dealer, where I met a friendly face. He said, "Where you from?" I said , "IOWA". That was the magic word. The salesman standing in front of me was a retired baseball coach from Norway, Iowa, named Bernie. And from Bernie, I bought a very road-worthy high-mileage 1994 Dodge Spirit. I could feel that this was one of the best decisions I had ever made. Due to one act of terrorism, our real priorities had come into sharp focus. By this time, I knew my 5th grader was about to learn of the events of the day at school. I didn't know how she would take all of this. I felt that the longer I was stranded away from home, the more difficult the uncertainty would be on my kids. So with a smile on my face, I pulled out of Scottsdale, and I FELT GREAT! I left Bernie behind me, and headed east for the Petrified forest, the butte country, and on to Winslow, Arizona. As I passed the statue of Don Henley of the Eagles in Winslow, I thought of his song, which seemed to fit on this day, "Oh beautiful for spacious skies, but now those skies are threatening, this the End of the Innocence."
Terrorists had shut down our country. But there was one method of transportation they forgot, the American automobile. The words, "Freedom of the American Road" took on a whole new meaning. All along Interstate 40, flags were at half-mast. Those big flashy neon truckstop signs read "God Bless America" and "Pray For Our Nation". And KOMA Radio, the blowtorch AM station in Oklahoma City, was playing a recording of the Canadian Gordon Sinclair, reading his performance piece, "The American". I'll NEVER forget that drive across the US. There was not a single airplane in American airspace. I shared the road with millions of Americans, all with tragedy on their minds. Many of them had taken matters into their own hands, and they had found a way, a way home. I travelled through Gallup, New Mexico to Overland Park, Kansas, all the way home, to Iowa. I was never so glad to be home in my life! I gave my kids the biggest hug ever! I was so proud of 'em. They were thriving! My 10-year old daughter spotted my '94 Dodge. She said, "Dad, you don't really like that car, do you?" To which I replied, "I LOVE THAT CAR!" My friend Bernie had taken good care of me! I made it home. I had my freedom back! Over the next several days, we came to learn that there were hundreds if not thousands of Bernie's across the US. Caring Americans everywhere were helping their fellow stranded but determined citizens to use good old American ingenuity to find their way home.
Don't ever count us out! Americans ALWAYS find a way! - Ted Burton Jacobsen, Coralville, Iowa