Sunday, September 11, 2011

Americans on the outside, looking in.

Memories of 9/11/2001 will forever be a mixture bittersweet feelings. Such joy for our new family, such sorrow for our Country.

At the time, we had been in Ukraine for five weeks awaiting the finalization of our adoption of our then 18-month old son, Cade. We were to fly to Warsaw, Poland the very next day and were anxiously packing to come home on September 11, 2001. At approximately 6pm in Ukraine (they are ahead by 8 hours), my mother called from the States, hysterical, to tell us what had happened. She might as well have been speaking Russian because I could not make sense of what she was saying. Our Ukrainian hostess ran to turn her television on and started yelling and crying. We hung up the phone and ran in to where she was. We watching CNN but it was in Russian. We could only see the planes hitting the twin towers, our hostess was trying to translate, we stood there dumbfounded holding Cade. Over and over, we were saying, "what, what, what are you saying, our country attacked, what?" It was insane. We could only continue to watch the devastating video as it unfolded, remaining in shock and continued disbelief. Our country. under attack. It was a surreal moment of utter horror. Our hostess tried her best to translate, but missed on a few key points. The main one being that President Bush ordered our military to take down one of the passenger airlines. (this was eventually cleared up but not soon enough!!) When the tears came, they were unstoppable. We still had to finish packing to fly out the next day, with our new son.

Then the fear set in - fear of flying, fear for our country and a fear of not being able to get home.

We had a long journey to get home. As we left for the airport in Kiev, Ukraine (flights had not been grounded to other countries, only to the U.S.), our new Ukrainian friends sent us off with hugs, tears and prayers for our country. I did not think I had the strength nor the courage to board that plane the very next day after airplanes had been used as weapons against innocent people. (We still had heard nothing in English). My husband became my strength on that flight, as he held our son and held my hand. God was with us! The flight, uneventful.

Once in Warsaw, Poland, we could not get any information as to when we would be able to leave the country. They did not want Americans on their planes. We were stuck in a country with no idea of when we could leave.

We were staying in a Sheraton hotel and finally were able to find an English channel and finally learned the true story of 9/11. Our hotel was on lock down. Americans should not leave and if you must, don't look American. What? We had a baby who needed formula, baby food and diapers. It was a scary time, I have never in my life experienced abject fear as when walking to the store in Poland. Our hotel went on lock down for a couple of days-no leaving. Terrorist cells were popping up everywhere. We had no translator, nothing.

We had to make our way to the U.S. Embassy by foot. Never have I seen a place so well guarded but it was frightening. The guards in full black body suits, black masks, and mean looking guns-everywhere.

The most moving event I have ever seen was outside the Embassy. The Polish people had erected a massive, beautiful memorial with the American flag. There were so many people there, burning candles and bringing flowers. They were crying and they were praying for our country. The support we (Americans) were shown in two different countries was simply amazing. It showed me that Americans are truly cared about in other countries and that our country was being prayed for by people who will never get to enjoy the freedoms we so frequently take for granted.

We finally able to leave Warsaw, Poland after about 1-1/2 weeks. Our flight to Austria-uneventful. When we were in line to board the BIG plane that would bring us to the U.S., I was a scared, hysterical mess. They had a lady set up taking our information for our families in the event something happened and numbers of those we would like them to contact. I did not feel very confident. I prayed and prayed-please just get us home.

Once on the BIG plane (which was heading for Chicago), a man sat down across from us and spoke to us and chatted with Cade. Could he see the terror in my eyes? Could he smell the fear on me? The next minute, he turned and handed us a bunch of patches - civil police, etc. He looked right at me and said, "Nothing is going to happen on this plane, you will be safe." He turned then to unload his guns and put them in the overhead compartment, turned back and said, "two more of my friends are on this plane." They were returning to the U.S. after spending a very long time policing in Kosovo. I felt like the utter relief that shook through me would have shaken the plane. Not to mention the fact that only men took up the outer seats-things were so very different in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

Landing in Chicago, we were reminded againof the enormous tragedy our country had suffered. The airport was covered with armed guards. There were lines and lines of luggage that had been cut and ripped open then left to be claimed.

We we landed in Houston, it was very emotional. I began to cry, lean on my husband and hug our new son. WE HAD MADE IT HOME - PRAISE GOD! What a wonderful, indescribable feeling. Everyone on the plane began to clap as we pulled into the gate. At that point, the flight attendant spoke of her fellow flight attendants and pilots who died on that horrible day. And then she led all of in an amazing prayer for all of the victims of 9/11.

Looking back, a decade ago, I am reminded so much of God's blessings and that we must praise him in the good times and the bad times. We continue to pray for the families and friends of the victims and are reminded of what is truly important - God, family, and friends.

God bless our country.

Jeremiah 29:11

(this post was not proof-read, sorry in advance of typos.)


Holly said...

wow, thank you for sharing. very moving. Holly

Liz said...

Oh Lauree!!! I didn't know your story about that day! SO glad you made it home safely!!