Sunday, September 11, 2011

9-11 and Lingerie

Okay... so looking at that headline maybe gives me second thoughts. But it is part of my 9-11 story, so I'm plowing forward.

I was on a flight the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Jason and the girls were back in Orlando (where we lived at the time) getting ready for the day. I was making my way to Atlanta to begin the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism.

I was excited and, honestly, scared to death about the fellowship! I was going to spend three days with Mrs. Carter and a handful of other journalists. We were to have dinner that night with President Carter. I had briefly met Boris Yeltsin a decade before, but had never met a U.S. President, let alone have dinner with him. That scared me.

It also scared me that the other fellows seemed way more experienced and accomplished than I. But, in for a penny, in for a pound. So I put on my best 90's power suit, boarded the plane and set off for the adventure.

Little did I know.

As we started our descent to Hartsfield International Airport a man at the front of the plane stood up and started talking, excitedly, into his cell phone.

Rule Breaker, I thought.

The flight attendant told him he couldn't be on his phone. But the man, who was wearing a golf shirt with a television station logo, gave her the hand and continued his conversation. Something was definitely wrong.

We landed, disembarked and immediately were thrust into the drama. We were the last flight to land at Hartsfield that morning. And as my fellow passengers and I huddled around the television screens scattered throughout the airport, it was immediately clear what was going on. The towers. The planes. The confusion.

This would be a big day. For the country. For me. I scrambled to get a cab and once safely ensconced in it, started chatting up the driver. He was deathly afraid that if the airports remained closed for long he would lose a lot of money. (Bingo! Story to pitch Marketplace. And yes, that is how journalists' brains work, even in the midst of a national crisis. Especially in a midst of a national crisis.)

I got to the hotel, filed the story with Marketplace, then called my family back home to tell them I was okay. (yes, in that order. I know.)

Jason was teaching high school at the time and didn't get my message till later. He was dealing with his own chaos. In a moment of utter stupidity, Miranda's 1st grade teacher had turned the in-class television on to watch the video of events unfolding in New York City and Washington. Images of crashing planes invaded a room filled with 6 year olds. Miranda knew I was on a plane that morning and immediately she assumed I must have been on that plane.

She was inconsolable for much of the day. And, sensing the stress all around her, so was Hannah. She had just turned one a few days earlier and was at our babysitter's house. When Jason picked her up she was fussy. When he stayed at the babysitter's for a while to figure out what he was going to do, she was fussy. When he talked to me on the phone and heard that all flights were cancelled, there wasn't a rental car to be had, and that I'd be stuck in Atlanta for several days, she was fussy.

Struggling to find a way to console her, he struck upon the idea of giving her my nightgown to hold.

I don't know if he thought she would smell me and be comforted, or what. But it worked.

And that began what would be a four year love affair between Hannah and my Victoria Secret nightgown. She dragged it everywhere: preschool, the grocery store, the library. She wouldn't go to bed without it. She'd rub the silky fabric between her fingers and keep it close to her face at all times. We joked that we'd have to run an intervention or she would be toting the increasingly tattered thing off to kindergarten (she didn't, for the record).

So yes, that's my 9-11 story. A dinner at which President Carter kept us wrapt with stories of his work in the middle east. And the simple piece of lingerie that comforted my youngest child for one day and many years to come.

What's your 9-11 story?


Post a Comment