---Pinterest--- ------- Where Were You When? – Amy Gambill Designs

Where Were You When?


I remember one day in school, as a small child...maybe eight or so, studying American history, particularly the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  I remember my teacher saying that it was such a significant and life-changing event that anyone who was alive at that time would be able to tell you exactly where they were when they heard the President had been shot.  So...of course when my mom picked me up at school I asked where she was when she heard.  She immediately answered that she was at school in typing class and how devastated everyone was.  BOOM!  That hit me like a ton of bricks.  I still remember it.  My young mind was blown away that an event could be so life changing that one would remember exactly where they were and the time of day years later.  It shook me, and while I felt safe, I remember my naïve young mind thinking I hoped nothing so bad would ever happen in my lifetime that it would make such an impact.
Fast forward to September 11, 2001...
I was working at Enron (another story in itself!) and was in a serious relationship.  I was planning to be at work around 10:00 after Houston traffic had subsided.  That morning the phone rang.  It was my boyfriend calling from his office.  "Amy, do you have the TV on?"  "No, why?"  "We're under attack, go downstairs and turn on the news."  I hung up the phone and did, sitting in front of the television...stunned.  Never in my life did I think I'd see what I saw.  The phone rang again, it was him.  "Please don't go to work today.  Please just stay home."  I worked on the 36th floor of the Enron building.  A skyscraper in downtown Houston, fourth largest city in the nation, was the last place I wanted to be.  My assistant called my mobile and asked, "Have you left yet?  Stay home.  Everyone is leaving."  Terrified, I didn't go back into the office for a week.  Like many of my colleagues, I worked from home until we knew more.  I insisted my boyfriend cancel his business trips scheduled for that week and the following.  Gratefully, the airlines did it for him anyway.  Suddenly there it was.  My iconic tragedy that I would never forget where I was, who I was with or even the time of day.  It was shocking, frightening, surreal...
I called my parents, then on my own finally broke down and cried, completely overwhelmed at what I was watching.
Fast forward to May 1, 2011...
Having returned from Houston to Austin after a wonderful birthday celebration dinner hosted by my husband for me, my parents and some of my closest friends, we...exhausted, took ourselves to bed early.  We watched the local news, informed by our anchors that the President would be addressing the nation at any moment.  Why so late?  What on earth couldn't wait until morning as the East Coast might be on their way to bed?  The announcement was delayed and delayed as our local news anchors did their best to keep the day's stories moving while waiting for the President to break in.  We speculated on what could possibly be happening. A scheduled 9:30 Presidential address became 10:30...then it grew later...and later.  My husband had to leave at 6:30 the next morning to catch his flight but wasn't about to go to sleep.  Local news switched over to their national studios.  I was thinking, "Usually the White House at least gives a heads-up to the press as to the content of the address.  What gives?"  Apparently one anchor finally came on and announced that they had confirmed with the White House we were not under a nuclear attack, a thought that had never crossed my mind.  Then the word..."Osama Bin Ladin has been killed by American forces and his body is in our custody."  We waited for the Presidential address.  I opened my laptop and logged into Twitter, watching the news in silence with the man, now my husband, who ten years prior had begged me to not go into work as the tragedy of 9/11 unfolded.  President Obama walked to the podium and addressed the nation, giving the news and detail of the attack.  I, like many, couldn't believe we'd actually captured Bin Ladin.  It was surreal.  Twenty or so college aged men and women gathered outside of the White House gates chanting "USA-USA," and singing the national anthem.  Quickly that number grew to a sea of people.  At Ground Zero the same happened...people of all ages came out though it was after 1:00 in the morning in New York.
Closure?  Yes...in a way, though it could never bring back those lost or take away the nightmares of those who survived.  So many mixed emotions.  As a civil society I think we all struggle to some degree with the idea of celebrating a man's death, no matter how evil he is...and this man has to be one of the most evil who ever walked the earth.  While I grew up Catholic, I'm certainly not an overtly practicing and religious person, but even the bible says "an eye for an eye." However, the compassionate, human, decent side of me questions my instinct to revel in the news. Am I glad he's gone?  Damned right I am.  Is it over?  Definitely not.  Retaliation is sure to come, so as Americans, we remain vigilant.  As a civil society we still honored Bin Ladin's religious practices and our brave military respectfully buried him at sea, strictly observing Muslim traditions.  An observance that made me even more proud to be an American, never mind this man had no respect for the burials and traditions of those he so brutally murdered.  I'm a firm believer in being the bigger person.  A few hours later, as my husband kissed me goodbye in the dim early morning light of our bedroom, I made mental note of what he was wearing...as I've done every time he's traveled since that fateful day in 2001, unbeknownst to him. The dark side of me has never let go of that practice in ten years...just in case.  I remember in the days that followed September 11, 2001, the family of those lost were asked to describe what their loved ones were wearing as they left for work on that day in hopes of it helping to identify them. So many couldn't.  Something we never would have thought to notice before.
One day your children or grandchildren may come home and ask you where you were when....
What will you tell them?
What a weekend this has been for me.  My stepdaughter, to whom I'm very close and who has been in my life since she was eight, has chosen a university and a dress for her senior prom.  We've celebrated a royal wedding and watched a true Cinderella story as a commoner became a princess. Pope John Paul nears sainthood.  The world's most wanted terrorist has been captured by our brave armed forces, killed, and put to rest.  To top it all off, as I was typing this post, I turned 40...
So, that little innocent girl who was amazed at the magnitude of President John F. Kennedy's death and the impact it made on her parents, like all Americans and the world over, has to stop and reflect on my place in the world, in my country, the times I live in and the incredible history that has unfolded before our eyes in recent days.  One day, my stepchidrens' kids or my niece's children might ask me, "Were were you when...?"
I can guarantee...I'll never forget.

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