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Am I dead? In the same moment that I wondered this, I began to cry, uncontrollably, almost driving myself into a sound wall on the freeway. Where am I? Where is my son? Where is EVERYONE?
A large flashing sign on the freeway read, “All Flights Cancelled.” I was just merging onto the freeway when the sign caught my eyes. It must have been a nightmare. It was a nightmare. It was a REAL nightmare. It was happening. What was happening? I didn’t know. I just knew it was big. I could feel it. Something was not right. I mean, something was not right with the world! I wanted to be dreaming. I knew that whatever was happening was something like never before. Where were all the people?
I was on my way to work. I kept driving. My hands shook the steering wheel, but I couldn’t release my grip. My fingers wouldn’t move. Have you ever had an out of body experience? On that dreadful morning, September 11, 2001, I did. I saw myself driving. I could see myself watching me, trying to stay on the road, unaware of where I was or where I was going until I arrived at work, not quite sure how I got there. I could have crashed as I swerved in and out of lanes, unable to maintain my concentration. I wasn’t going to crash. There was no one to crash into. There were hardly any cars on the road.
I turned on my computer and loaded the internet. When I saw the news, I fell to the floor. I thought I was going to die because I didn’t remember breathing. Mostly in a fetus-position, I closed my eyes. Every time I opened them, I was still alone. There was no one in the building. I repeated closing my eyes, opening them, and realizing I was alone, over and over again. Finally, a co-worker tapped me on the shoulder. “Alicia! Alicia, get up. Please get up! Alicia, I’m scared!” she whimpered. I embraced my colleague as if that hug was my last words. Finally, I wasn’t alone. “I’m scared too,” I cried.
I went to a church in Newark, CA, a town over from my place of employment. The church was full of people hugging and embracing each other. Everyone was in tears. I had never been so happy to see a group of strangers in my entire life. To this day, I have never been so happy to be in the company of others. No one really wants to die alone. Even though I was in CA, I worried, as did everyone else, that the next word we said could be the last. We said nothing.
I returned to work so I could keep up with the unthinkable nightmare. My colleague and I were the only ones in the building, which housed numerous companies. I was nowhere near the attacks. The trauma I experienced mentally and emotionally didn’t even begin to compare to the people who were victim to, witnessed, and aided others in the Massacres of 9/11/2001. It really happened. It wasn’t a dream.
My son was 2 years old at the time. He was my only child. Twelve years later, I have five children. While I eventually showed my first child many of the unforgettable images and footage of 9/11, I now have four more children. How can I truly teach them the history and impact of 9/11 without exposing them, at some point in the future, to the same graphic images and footage I exposed my oldest child to a few years ago?
On 9/11 and in the days that followed, parents kept their children away from the television, without access to the radio, and close by. Twelve years have passed. The toddlers from that day are now teens. The teens are now adults. We must ask ourselves, “Is it time to show our children, via images and footage, the truth of 9/11?” Peggy Lee, 24/7 Modern Mom™ and Parenting Author, answers this difficult question, here.
By: Alicia Gonzalez