As with so many, many things in my life, my memories of September 11, 2001, are all intertwined with memories of you.
My dad, brother Will, and I had gotten up early that morning. We were driving here to help your family with building your parents’ home. The Country radio station was on (it was too early in the morning to hear Rush Limbaugh), when all of a sudden the news broke through.
The Twin Towers? I didn’t even know what they were. Daddy was trying to explain their significance as we heard a live observer yelling to the radio waves that the second tower was struck.
By the time the third plane went down, Daddy decided to turn around and drive back home until we found out what was going on in the world. He didn’t want to be stuck far away from Mommy, Jessica, and Caleb if things got worse. I was wishing I was already there to talk with you about it.
The first song the radio station played was “God Bless the USA.” And of course, I thought of you, my friend who made me love Country music.
We got home and watched the surreal footage on television. Daddy called you to tell you we were waiting out the news a bit. You told him you’d had some excitement of your own there the day before—your sister, my friend, Megan had been hit by a semi truck on her way to work. She was okay. But the events of the nation and the accident in your family combined to make us all quite somber.
I still couldn’t help but be excited, though, when Daddy decided that there didn’t appear to be any immediate threat nearby, and that we would hit the road again for your house.
We arrived to find Megan in a neck brace on the couch. It brought the suffering on the east coast much closer to home. We listened to your story—you’d seen the accident and had no idea if your sister was okay until you raced out there on the 4-wheeler. We each had a small taste of the fear that was gripping the hearts of families across our nation.
All week, the radio was on nearby, reminding us of the people who needed prayer, who needed Jesus. We stood there together and listened to remarks from President Bush, from Billy Graham. We looked at Megan’s pictures of when she’d been to New York and stood there atop one of the towers. We asked the “why?” and the “what next?” along with the rest of the country, even as we laughed and worked together.
Everyone said that it would be just like when the space shuttle blew up. And now I understand why my grandmas can each tell me exactly what they were doing, where they were ironing, when they heard that news.
Because when I hear September 11, I’m back in that pickup truck. On my way to a week making unforgettable memories: your 18th birthday party, playing badminton barefoot, riding in your car, bringing you cookies as you worked on the house, scrapbooking Yellowstone pictures with you, Mexican dinner out with our families, turning red as my Sombrero when they sang “happy birthday” to the two of us, and that letter you wrote me that brought tears to my eyes realizing how much you cared about me (at least as a friend!).
Yes, I was on my way to see you “when the world stopped turning that September day.”
And I’m so thankful that, nine years later, I’m here with you to stay. I love you, Merritt.