A-Z Blog Challenge: “A” Long Way from Home

As I begin our Writers of Kern A-Z Blog Challenge, I want to take time to remember this day back in 2001.  Our family had been on vacation for several weeks and we were homeward bound.  Stopping overnight in Green River, Wyoming, we wanted to rest before the next day’s driving.
My (ex) husband went across the street about 9 am the next morning, September 11th, to get some coffee at the local diner.  No sooner had he left, I heard pounding on the motel door.  As I approached the door, I heard him shout, “Let me in.  Turn on the TV.”  He was breathless, and as we turned on the old Motorola, we sunk onto the lumpy bed and didn’t move for almost three hours.
Check out time came and went, no one cared.  We sat transfixed, witnessing the madness over and over again.  Finally, about noon we flipped off the set. We needed to head home. The motel owner had the TV in the lobby playing and as we checked out we all stared at it; no one made eye contact.  Leaving Wyoming, we realized we were 900 miles from home and had no idea what was going on in the United States or in the world.
We stopped for gas from time to time and at each stop the same scenario played out.  No one spoke; everyone just stared up at a TV set mounted to the wall.  Preoccupied by a fatigued newscaster we hoped to hear positive news. But, we only stood and shook our heads in disbelief, and then walked back to our cars.  No one could comprehend such acts of violence.
Fortunately, we had friends in Salt Lake City, Utah and stayed a few nights to gather our composure.  It wasn’t a pleasant get-together as we’d originally planned months before, but more of a chance to catch our breath and talk, although no one felt like talking.  Since the TV played the same horrific scenes over and over, we kept it off so not to frighten their young kids and my five year old son.
Soon we were on our own again, heading to Las Vegas, Nevada.  By this time a few days had passed. But, in those few days, something changed.  Being so far away from home, I think we noticed this more than if we had been in our own town.   People needed to talk, to understand, to be there for each other. Strangers began to nod and smile.  It was if a big covering of self-absorption had lifted and people were reaching out to someone, anyone, next to them.
Every marquee in Vegas blinked, “In God We Trust” and “America” with red, white and blue lights waving in a flag. There were no headliners featured, nor any shows advertised, just encouraging words for everyone to see.  With the airport still shut down, there weren’t many tourists.  The town was strangely quiet.  Most of the shows had shut down also, but people still walked the strip – just to be together.
There was something else different too.  Most everyone had American flags attached to car windows.  It was like waves and waves of flags everywhere.  Being from out of town we tried finding one for our car, but everywhere we checked had sold out.  As we got ready to pull out of a gas station parking lot, a car pulled alongside us.  The driver got out grabbing the flag from his back window.  He approached us, “I saw you were from out of state.  You want a flag?”  This single random act of kindness from a stranger renewed my faith in mankind after witnessing such random acts of violence days before.
We arrived home later in the day.  Finally we were back to friends, family, and familiar surroundings.  But, I kept thinking about the man in Vegas who shared his flag with us.  I realized in the midst of confusion, people still cared about each other, even if we didn’t know each other.
Twelve years later I still remember.  When I think of the day, I grieve for the loss of so many lives. I also rejoice for the victory of one man’s simple gift of a flag.  Whoever he was I thank him.  He impacted my life more than he’ll ever know.

6 thoughts on “A-Z Blog Challenge: “A” Long Way from Home

  1. This is a lovely and moving post, Joan, as we all take time to remember this day and where we were.

    I was in Oregon, and we were to leave the following week for a trip to Egypt. After 24 hours, we knew we had to cancel and cross the pyramids off our travel list.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. My wife was working all the night before and that day, doing deliveries at the hospital. She's the New Yorker, but she was too busy to hear the news until I called. Ultimately, it was quite painful for her family and friends. We had friends who worked downtown (one was one of those who arrived late that day after dropping his daughter off, and saw the burning tower when he emerged from the subway, then walked 70 blocks uptown to get a train out; a second would go bankrupt when the devastation shut down the streets in Soho and her business was crippled beyond repair). My in-laws in Manhattan were all affected. In every case, they had friends who suffered the loss of loved ones that we here in California didn't personally know.

  3. I was in the 11th grade and didn't know anything had happened until I arrived at school. I had to be in a holding room that morning because other students were taking the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) test and I didn't need to. The classroom I was in had the tv on all morning and we just watched as people ran from the scene as both towers fell. We were all in shock. 9/11 We will never forget!

  4. I remember getting ready for school and getting interrupted with shouts from the living room where our TV was. Everyone in the house watched the news that day, as well as everyone in all of my classes at school. A few kids cried, but I do remember, later on, that almost everyone I knew buying and displaying American flags on their cars and mounted on their houses.

  5. I turned on the TV that morning to check for fog delays at school. I don't even remember if I actually saw the weather scroll across the bottom of the screen. I was lost in the madness.

  6. I was in the dorms at Fresno state…the student workers in the computer lab at the dorms were listening to the radio but I couldn't quite make it out. Then I checked my e-mails…it was crazy. I thought everyone was talking about a terrible accident. Then they said 2 planes…then they said terrorists. I high-tailed it to the campus proper where I sat in a little Carl's Jr with at least a dozen other students just staring at the TV on the wall. The rest of the day was a blur. Classes were cancelled…we congregated wherever there was a tv. I ended up at the blood bank with dozens of strangers from all walks of life…all of us aware that our blood couldn't help NY but all of us consumed by the need to do something positive…no matter how small. We waited hours for the privilege…not one complaint at the close quarters, long wait…well aware we were so lucky to be where we were, safe….well aware that so many others on the other side of the country were not.

    Thank you for sharing, letting us share.

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