I awoke early on the morning of September 11, 2001, to phone my girlfriend Pat before she left her night job as Fingerprint Specialist for the Kern County Sherif’s office. My husband and I were to leave on a six week driving vacation early the next morning and Pat had so graciously agreed to house sit. I was asking and answering last minute questions so everything would go smoothly. The first words out of Pats mouth were “Do you have the news on?” I said “No I just got out of bed,” and she said to turn it on now, one of the Twin Towers in New York City had been hit by an airplane.
I clicked on the TV to CNN and was shocked and immediatly yelled for my husband to get up now and come out there. As he was trying to make sense out of what he was seeing, the second plane hit the other tall tower and in utter speechless shock we sat and began a vigil that lasted all day.
I would get up and leave the room every little bit to finish packing last minute things for outr trip. My mind and heart was on the horriffic scenes coming from the Twin Towers and all the people affected that day. I couldn’t focus on anything else.
I received phone calls from family and friends that morning. Were we still going on our trip? I called mom in Phoenix, who was traveling with us, and we decided to go, at least as far as Phoenix, and then decide. At least we would be together during this scarey time for all the American Family.
The next morning we left very eary for Phoenix. The Highway was empty but for a few vehicles on the road around the towns…local traffic…but very eerie in between. We spent the day with mom watching the news and she decided we should start out and see what happens.
On the morning of the 12th we took I-10 South through Tucson into New Mexico and spent the night in a small town. On the 13th we ate breakfast at a friendly little diner and started out again. We noticed that every store markee and windows had positive sayings for the USA, for America, for hope, for New York City and its people. Every car had a little flag or flag sticker. Houses and stores were flying the Red White and Blue. We were a family again, all focused on the situation at hand. We were in Mourning together. We were giving money to help where ever we could. We were doing what we always do in times of trouble. We were being Americans.
On the day of prayer and just before the designated time, we were near a small town in Texas so we decided to seek a church that was having a service for the 9/11 victims and their families. We stopped at a General Store and I went in to get directions to a Church. It was just a mile or so out of town across a bridge and around a bend. As we sere entering the church Mom stopped on the steps. She was an old school Catholic and this was not a Catholic church. She asked me if I thought it was OK for her to attend a service here. I told her it was perfectly fine, That God was everywhere and would be happy to see her. She went in with us, joined in the singing and prayers and said later she was happy she did. It brings a smile whenever I think of it.
The service was amazing, beautiful hymns and American songs and a great sermon of hope. After it was over the Minister met us outside and was very happy we stopped on our journey to join in the day of prayer. It was a very positive experience.
And on and on it went, flags flying, positive saying like God Bless America in the windows and on the billboards, people pulling together and mouring together, as a family does in hard times. The roads were still pretty empty and we were happy we had decided to go. It was an amazing time in our history following a horrible event.
We stopped for gas in another small Texas town and I went inside to get snacks for the three of us while my husband pumped gas. I gathered drinks and chips, put them on the counter and no one came to ring them up. After waiting a few minutes I noticed someone peeking around a door. Immediately I knew that the man was frightened and being very cautious. He was middle eastern. I said “You have nothing to fear from us, I understand your fear and wish there was no reason for it.” He came out to help me and I suggested that he take a few days off, if he could, to let things cool down and wished him good luck. I was saddened that there were reasons for him to be fearful of people who were thoughtless and driven by irrational fears of anyone unlike themselves.
It was the best vacation of my life, seeing Americans acting like family and for the most part behaving like the good people that we are. I will never forget the flags, signs and wonderful people we met all along the way. Our trip took us to Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and back to Arizona where we visited the Petrified Forest, Painted Desert and Grand Canyon before heading home. We spent time with family and friends all along the way.