“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together.. there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart.. I'll always be with you.”
~A.A. Milne, from "Winnie the Pooh"

Thursday, September 8, 2011

In Honor of The Day the World Stood Still

I had planned to write this post on Saturday. However, due to a small lapse in my organizational skills, I find that come Saturday evening, I will be frantically trying to finish a 3-5 page psych paper that is due on Sunday instead. Sooooo, since I will be otherwise occupied every single free minute of the upcoming weekend, I decided to go ahead and post now. It was very important to me that the tenth anniversary of 9/11 be recognized here, since my son doesn't remember and my daughter didn't even exist.

September 11th will be a day forever seared into the memories of all Americans old enough to remember clearly the haunting images that we faced that day. Our lives changed forever that warm fall day....and the way of life we so staunchly clung to died, along with so many innocent souls.
I wrote a paper on this back in freshman English and I feel that it's appropriate that I share it here with you.

The Day the World Stood Still

In the course of human events, there randomly come brief moments when everyone stops what they are doing to concentrate on the larger world. Most Americans tell each other stories of where they were when they heard that President Kennedy had been shot or what they were doing when the Challenger exploded. September 11, 2001 stands out in most peoples’ memories as one of those times, marking the end of life as they knew it and the beginning of a nation united.             I am no exception. I, too, was changed by the events that I watched with horror unfolding on my television screen and the lessons I learned about generosity, solidarity, and good will are ones I still carry with me to this day.
I remember clearly where I was when I heard the news that the first plane had hit the World Trade Center.  I was driving my beat-up red Saturn to a doctor’s appointment, which was the reason I wasn’t working that day.  The radio was on and I was expecting nothing more than another ordinary day, the beginning to another ordinary week. An announcer came on in mid-song to announce that a plane had apparently crashed into the side of one of the towers, more news to follow as it was available. I remember feeling confused and like a ship tossed on a stormy ocean. Butterflies took flight in my sinking stomach.
I was in the waiting room, on the edge of the hard chair, eyes glued to the TV when the second plane smashed into the remaining tower. I watched with tears in my eyes as both began to crumple and people began to leap from windows onto the pavement below. It horrified and absolutely terrified, the world as I knew it had changed in an instant.

I don’t remember much of the rest of that day, other than the endless parade of images dancing across the TV and the constant ringing of the phone. I seemed compelled to memorize every face, listen to every story, even to cry for every lost soul. I watched people line up to donate blood across the country, as well as rush to Manhattan to help in any way they could.  My heart broke a little more with every passing minute. I hugged my baby boy close to me and phoned every family member just to tell them I loved them. I wondered how I would ever lose the fear and aloneness that pervaded every thought.
On September 12th , I stumbled out of bed and headed to work through a world with flags flying at half staff and streets quieted by shock. I worked for the local blood center, which had been the reason for my phone ringing off the hook the previous day. I trudged through the front doors, fearing the onslaught that was bound to come. Little did I know that having that particular job during that particular week would change the way that I looked at the American people forever.
The hours were brutally long, the line of people ceaseless. There was no time for resting tired feet, or breaks for easing aching backs. There wasn’t even time to eat.  Donors waited for hours, patiently, stacked on top of each other in too little space only to have overworked phlebotomists stick needles in their arms.  They were all moved to simply do something; any little thing to lend a helping hand to people most of them had never met. They sat in groups, sometimes whole families, chatting quietly about where they had been when they first heard and the emotions they were feeling. They sported flags of every shape and size on their lapels, on their shirts, in their hair. They were courteous and kind to each other. Food poured in from everywhere, from local restaurants as well as home-cooked goodies brought by concerned neighbors. The tables over flowed with nourishment, both for our bodies and for our hearts.  There were tears, laughter and hugs. The very air seemed to pulse with good will, patriotism, and love for mankind.
As tired as I was, I was buoyed by the hope and solidarity that surrounded me. Just when I began to feel that I couldn’t possibly take another step, someone was always there with a pat on the back or a heartbreaking story that gave me just enough encouragement to keep going.  I have never before and never again felt so emotionally and physically drained, but I have also never felt so alive. I looked around myself and was every minute graced with seeing the very best of human nature exemplified.  At least a hundred times a day, I was brought to tears; sometimes tears of sorrow, mostly tears of joy at the overwhelming beauty of the American spirit. I was touched in a million little ways by the simple acts of human kindness that I saw with growing frequency. I was personally grateful for each and every person who set foot in that building over the duration of those seven days, because each one changed me in some subtle way. 

In many practical ways, life as we had known it did end that crisp fall day. I find that I am still moved to tears by the sight of our flag waving in the wind or the familiar strains of our national anthem. I can still look around myself and be grateful that I was born an American, even if I don’t always agree with the leaders we choose to run our country. I can see the innate goodness that permeates the people of this country and the love that we have for each other deep down, even if it is hidden behind self-involvement. I will never forget a country where people were no longer black, white, yellow or red; but were simply Americans.  I believe myself truly blessed to have been a small part of the enormous sense of community that revealed itself during an extremely frightening time. While I will never forget all of the images of destruction, I will also never forget that feeling of unity in the face of great adversity.~Heidi Ehle

 I sincerely hope that we always remember what it truly means to be an American. And that our country never forgets the great sacrifices that have been made in the name of our freedom. May we always remember the lessons learned that warm September day. Let those who lost their lives never be forgotten, despite the ever changing sands of time.

God bless America.


  1. Absolutely chilling and beautiful, Heidi. I remember where I was too--in Philadelphia, PA receiving report on patients during my first day of a psych clinical rotation my senior year of nursing school. Penn called all of its students back to campus and cancelled classes. I had to walk home as transit services had been shut down. We stared at the news as I watched friends trying to reach loved ones in NYC. We received tons of phone calls because people heard about the other crash in Pennsylvania and assumed Philly. I will never forget that day.

  2. I had "chills" in my brain, ready to type, and then I read Anna's comment. Love this, friend. God help our nation.
    My brother is a federal agent...he texted me tonight asking me to stay away from Portland this weekend. Please stay safe as well...ox


Yes, I read every single comment and I love them all! Please leave us one (and imagine me doing a happy dance when I see it!)