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    Posted May 21, 2011 by
    Grand Rapids, Michigan
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    9-11-2001: My Story


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     hkrpjr2599 says her son, now 10, understands the September 11 terrorist attacks 'in his 10-year-old way.' She believes that growing up in America was much safer when she was a child. 'He, like many children who lived their early years in wartime and under the cloud of threat, can never fully understand and know the golden glow which surrounded life before. But I pray he will one day know something much better, much brighter and much happier than those days of ignorant bliss.'
    - katie, CNN iReport producer

         It began as a beautiful, late summer day.  Bright and clear, the sunshine washed the city in light as I was headed to work, one of my first days back from maternity leave.  Congress street in Portland, Maine, where I worked, was quieter than usual but I was thankful for the lull in activity.  I missed my two month old baby boy and while I was happy to be back in the "Swing of things" I hated to say goodbye to my chubby cheeked angel.


         I don't remember much about the morning until a little after nine.  The floor was empty except for the morning shift and a few customers, including an older gentleman near me who quietly milled about.  Looking back, as the store phone on my waist began to ring, a fracture in time exists in the moments before and after I clicked the talk button.  Both my employees and the gentleman near me could tell by my face that something was terribly wrong just seconds after I answered the phone.  My husband, who was active duty military, called me with the terrible news that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

         Suddenly, he gasped.  "Oh, my God... Another one just hit.  This isn't an accident, this is war," he whispered.  "Honey, I've got to go.  You might want to call your unit."


    My military unit.  You see, I was a reservist at the Coast Guard unit right across the river, and most certainly they would be calling all hands on deck.  My mind began to spin.  "War?   Who would do this? Were the planes empty?  God, I hope so....Is this real?  It can't be... What is happening?!"


    The gentleman to my right walked over and gently put his hand on my shoulder.  "You OK?" he asked kindly.


    "No.... Two planes just hit the World Trade Center...." I could hardly whisper.


         Startled gasps from my employees and the other customers filled the space of disbelief around us.  The gentleman next to me brought his hand up to his mouth in horror.  We could only stand and say nothing.


         Without warning, a police officer burst through the front door, breaking the silence with his panicked voice.

         "Close and lock your doors and move to the back of the store, everyone.  There is a shooter on one of the rooftops firing at random." *


         Like in a nightmare when you cannot move or speak or react, I stood looking at him.  What?  Had these terrorists planned attacks on the ground too?


         Springing into action, I did as he said and moved all my employees and customers to the back of the store and then locked the doors.  A surreal haze surrounded us all. The store phone in my hand suddenly began to ring, and I couldn't help but jump.  As quickly as I picked it up the second line began to light up followed by a chorus of cellphones around the room.

         "Hello, this is Hannah, how may I help you?" I said in a daze.

         "Hannah, it's Dave from the station.  You need to report in immediately.  I know you just got off maternity leave, but we need everyone in within the hour." Click.


         After calling my district manager, closing up shop and waiting for police to help my employees and customers safely exit through an emergency rear door, I found myself headed towards home in tears.  I just wanted to hold my baby.  I wanted to hold him close and never let go.  To go and fight a war in a distant land was one thing, terrifying in its own way.  But the enemy had brought the war to my backyard; literally to the busy shopping district which was just up the road from my house where my little baby lay.  I prayed my mother-in-law hadn't taken him out for their daily walk.  She hadn't answered the phone, and it was all I could do to not speed.  Only the rows of police cars headed towards the street I had just fled kept my lead foot at bay.


         When I arrived home, I ran inside and sighed with relief to see my baby swinging contently in his Grandmother's arms.  I picked him up and held him close, my tears wetting his wisps of golden hair.  He looked at me with his dark brown eyes and the sparkle shining back began to soothe my frayed nerves.  He reached out his small, chubby hand and cooed.  There in that moment, peace and assurance flooded me.  Here was my heart, my reason to be brave, my reason to report as soon as I could to my military unit and gear up: so I could protect him, no matter the cost.


         I kissed him gently and handed him back to his grandmother.  Turning on the news, I looked at her sadly as the towers began to collapse into themselves and reports of other plane crashes began to stream across the bottom of the screen.  "I have to go in to the station now.  This isn't an accident or the work of amateurs.  There is a shooter in Portland, even.  This is war, and you need to stay inside until one of us gets home from work and tells you other wise."  She nodded and I began to collect my gear as fast as I could.


         In just a few small moments linked together by disbelief, fear, sorrow and anger, the history of the world, the history of America, the history of Portland, ME, and the history of my family changed forever.  Evil had penetrated the shores we once naively believed were unbreachable.


         As the wound in our country bled in full view of the world, I could hardly begin to imagine what would happen in the days, weeks and months ahead as a result of the acts of terror committed on 9-11-2001.  But I have never felt more proud of my fellow brothers and sisters in arms.  I have never felt more gratitude for my family and friends.  I have never felt a greater love for my country.  9-11 robbed our country of its innocent and took many innocent lives in a coordinated execution of hate and evil.    But that's the funny thing about evil; it can never blot out the light, it can never overcome good.  It stains and it pains all hearts who are effected, but it cannot defeat the spirit of hope.  Some might say it even rekindles the best and burns away the worst of both individuals and a nation.


    But I would say that 9-11, like any day of loss and human made disaster, gives us a chance to be at our best when others have chosen to do their worst.  That's what I will always choose to remember , what I will always carry with me from that beautiful late summer day in September when evil men did their worst: I will remember hope.  I will remember light. I will remember love.



    *NOTE: The shootings in Portland, ME were completely unrelated and were later found to be the work of an individual under the influence of drugs.  This individual was shooting a pellet gun, and thankfully there were no fatalities.  He couldn't have picked a worse day to be so stupid.


         The writer of this piece was put on Active duty Service as part of a  Port Security unit at their unit in radio communications in light of her recent return from maternity leave and medical status.  She was released from Active Duty and returned to her civilian job on Congress Street two years  later.  These are her opinions and memories alone.

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