With today marking the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, it’s hard not to think back to where I was when so many people lost their lives.
September 11th, 2001
Quantico Marine Corps Base, Virginia
The day started as any other did. I awoke at four in the morning to make breakfast and help my husband get ready to go to work. With just recently getting married that June but not being able to be with him until late July, I was desperate to show him I could be a good wife and he didn’t make the mistake everyone believed he did.
With a kiss goodbye as he walked out the door I stepped into action of cleaning house. Not that cleaning our home at the time was a huge effort. All we had for furnishing were a kitchen table, four chairs, an airbed, two pillows, a quilt I made as a wedding present to my husband, a boom box radio and a 13inch television we got from a Marine moving out of his barracks. The real chore was sweeping and mopping the two bedroom, two story house filled with hardwood floors. Due to the lack of furniture, dust settled on the floor creating a film that made you cringe walking on it.
Turning on ZROCK 101 became part of my housework ritual. Though it didn’t play music this early in the morning, hearing the voices of the hosts help calm the eeriness I felt in our bare two-story townhouse the Marine Corps provided us. With my sister-in-law (at the time) still asleep I kept the morning chatter to a minimum.
Broom in hand I began sweeping the menacing hardwood floors in my living room when suddenly the radio went silent. Stepping toward it to see what the problem was I was scared when the radio host’s voice suddenly began speaking again.
“We’re getting reports a plane has flown into the World Trade Center” The voice was calm and steady as he delivered the news. My first reaction was they must have lost signal and cut to a commercial for the next big action-packed movie.
“Yes. Yes. A plane has hit the World Trade Center.” This time I flew to my small television and tuned it to MSNBC where I hoped to find Imus in the Morning on.
Instead I stared at an image of an icon sending billows of smoke into the New York sky. My heart dropped. What could have happened? Did the pilot have a heart attack or some other medical condition? As the questioned raced through my head plane two hit the second building before my very eyes.
One plane could be an accident but two planes…no way! My heart sank. I rushed to the phone to call my husband and break the news to him. I waited to hear the typically “Thank you for calling the TBS Armory. This is rank- so-in-so. How may I help you Sir or Ma’am?”
But there was no answer. Not having a vehicle myself I rushed upstairs to wake up my then sister-in-law to have her drive me to my husband’s work just fifteen minutes away. She was staying with us while her husband (my husband’s brother) finished his Army training at Ft. Belvoir, twenty minutes up the road.
Panicked I pounded on her door. Why I felt such a sense of urgency I still don’t know but I could tell you I had never been so frightened in my life. Finally waking her up, she ran down the stairs to the television confirming what I had frantically told her. Seeing her face as the truth hit her was frightful all in itself.
We stood there for a few moments staring at the flames coming from the building when suddenly the camera panned in for a close up. What I saw will stick with me forever. Two people holding hands jumping from the building seconds before it collapsed.
Without a word we rushed into her white Pontiac radio on ZROCK. We would check on my husband first since he was closer. Had we known what was usually a fifteen minute drive, would take us three hours of stop and go traffic I might have opted to stay home. Everyone everywhere was trying to reach their loved ones at once.
In the middle of gridlock I looked out toward the sky and couldn’t believe what I saw. How did the smoke from the World Trade Center’s travel so far, so fast? Again the radio announcer had to deliver horrific news. The Pentagon had been hit. Not wanting to hear anymore, I turned off the radio. Nichol and I sat in traffic silent in our thoughts.
Finally making it to the gate of The Basic School Quantico I was relieved to find I recognized the guards carrying M-16’s at the gate. They would know where my husband was.
“Where’s Lance Corporal Eldeen?”
“I’m sorry Mrs. Eldeen but he is unavailable at this time. We have to ask you to please turn around and go back to the safety of your home.” The first guard replied.
“Please Rank-so-and-so. Let me just talk to him real fast.” Confusion struck me as he pointed to a row of thick bush off the side of the road.
“Pull forward Ma’am and turn around.” The Marine said as he made a hand motion toward the bushes.
We did our U-turn as requested when I noticed the bushes began to rustle. Crawling out of his belly just enough for me to glimpse his face was my husband, M-16 in hand, lock, cock and ready to rock. With a few hand signals he let me know he was okay, that he loved me, would call me and to go home then slithered back into his hiding spot.
Seeing him should have calmed me but instead I worried more. Would the terrorist really attack a base full of highly trained Marines? Would my husband find himself in battle on his own turf? I cried uncontrollably as Nichol and I made our way toward Ft. Belvoir, defying my husband’s order to return home.
Four hours later we made it the Army base my brother-in-law was stationed. After forty-five minutes of pleading we were still unable to reach him personally but were able to reach him by phone. The bases were on high alert and locked down.
Finally after ten hours of being on the road and only going a short distance we made it back to base housing. The next three days were still in the Eldeen house as we waited to hear from our husbands. Every waking moment the television was left on to hear any news that came about hoping we didn’t hear our matrimonial surnames. Finally on the fourth day we selfishly reveled as our husbands returned home and into our arms. Our fears were calmed and then the reality of it all set in.
Evil doesn’t care about what creed, religion, races, and sexuality you are. Americans were attacked that day and nothing else. Standing as brothers and sister we all watched in horror. For that day and the days that followed we all stood as one, undivided. It is a unity I miss.
Feel free to share your story in the comment box below. I would love to hear it.