Friday, September 11, 2020

September 11, 2001 in West Virginia


It's been 19 years.  I don't have children, so I feel it is important to share some of my life experiences in a way they will hopefully life on after me. Everyone always asks "Where were you . . . when. . . "  My generation remembers where they were when the Challenger exploded, as well as where they were on 9/11/01.  

My mother needed to be to work at 8 in the morning on 9/11.  We only had one car, and I had planned on going to Cool Springs Park to have lunch with my grandmother that day.  So I took Mom to work, andI decided to come home and do some mail in sweepstakes.  I'm not a big TV watcher, and I never have been, so I worked on filling out envelopes in silence.  At about 9:30 I decided to call Grandma to see if we were still on for lunch.

"Have you seen the news?" she asked.   I replied I hadn't.

"The whole world is in chaos.  The world is at war.  There are bombs going off in cities all around the world."  I was only mildly concerned as my grandmother had a tendency to exaggerate (as you can see by the bombs going off in cities all over the world, as that did not happen that day!). I merely asked her if she still wanted to go to lunch, she said she did, and I said I'd be by to pick her up about noon.

So I decided I should get the real story, and instead of turning on the TV, I called my mother at work.  "What is going on?" She replied, "Isn't it awful?"  My heart sunk into my stomach thinking that my grandmother had been correct in her assessment of the situation.  I told Mom what my grandmother had said, and she corrected it and told me to turn on the TV.

I turned on the TV in time to hear the breaking news that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon.  I kept the TV on, and saw the South Tower collapse live.

I logged on to the computer, to check on some of my friends, and I had already received a few e-mails from friends who lived in other parts of the word asking if I was okay.  

The official timeline says that 10:03 the plane in Shanksville, PA crashed.  The exact moment it was announced on the TV is lost, there was so much going on that day.  Shanksville is somewhere between 9 and 15 minutes of flying time from me.  I have been to the site of the crash a few times since.  But on 9/11, there is something I remember after the plane crashed there.

Our local news station asked people to stay off the phone (as well as the internet because at that time most people used dial up internet.)  The reason is they wanted to leave the lines as open as possible so that first responders could use them.  (Even though Shanksville is about 1 1/2 hours drive from me, it's still relatively close.)  Also, phone lines in New York City were jammed with people wanting to check on loved ones.  

Amazingly, my grandmother and I went to lunch that day.  I can't remember what I had, but I remember everyone in the diner talking about what had happened and what life might be like.

We went back to my grandmother's place, and her boyfriend at the time came to visit -- it seemed like no one wanted to be alone on that day.  He started talking about some movies about the Rapture (a Christian belief that Jesus will come back and take all believers to Heaven, and some teach the world will spin out of control after that.)  Her boyfriend started talking about the movie "A Thief in the Night".  His topic of movies showed he was concerned and thinking this might be the beginning of the Christian belief of end times.  It seemed so absurd and comical when my grandmother didn't realize his movie genre being discussed and asked, "Have you ever seen Grumpy Old Men?  Now THAT is a good movie."  It made it even funnier because I felt like her boyfriend WAS a grumpy old man.

We had the TV on the rest of my visit.  She had a satellite TV receiver because she lived in between mountains in the Allegheny Mountains of Appalachia. I left in time to pick my mother up at work at 4:00.  One of the things I remember was the absolutely beautiful sky.  I'd not seen a sky so blue since I was a child in the 1970s and I haven't seen one so beautiful since.  It's odd to remember how blue the sky was, but I know I'm not the only one who remembers this.  Perhaps it was because all air traffic was halted and there was less air pollution.

I arrived to pick up my mother, she came out to get in the car, it was obvious she had a rough day.  She was the worker at an information center of a nursing home.  So she had to preform her job and the TV in the solarium where her window faced was filled with people watching the TV.  Veterans were near the TV wearing ball caps saying "WWII" with an American flag on it.  Co-workers would come in because, like I stated before, no one wanted to be alone that day.

At 5:00, when long distance rates went down -- these were the days when everyone had house phones and cell phones were rare.  The cost of a call was by minute, and rates were determined based on time you placed the call in your time zone.  I think it was full price from 8 in the morning until 5 pm, evening rates from 5 pm to 11 pm, and night rates from 11 pm to 8 am.  At 5 pm, the phone rang.  It was a friend from an hour away.  We had made plans to meet at Pizza Hut that evening, and he said, "You're not still planning on coming are you?"  I had forgot about it, and I said, "No".  He said his family was getting in the car to go get his grandmother in Pittsburgh, they wanted her out of the city.

I remember holding my guinea pig, Hamlet, that evening as President George W Bush addressed the nation.  As I petted Hamlet's fur, and he did his contented "lap talk" that guinea pigs often do, I couldn't help but think how nice it would be to be a little furry creature that evening.  He knew nothing of what was going on, and he was just as happy as could be sitting on my lap enjoying cuddles.  He got a lot more attention that usual over the next few days as it was a way to relieve some anxiety for me.  I remember e-mailing some friends encouraging them to give blood, saying that I couldn't but I hoped they could.  Amazingly there was very little extra blood needed because of the lack of survivors.

I went to bed that evening, made sure to write in my diary as I knew that day would have as much historic significance as December 7, 1942 or November 22, 1963.  As FDR called Pearl Harbor, "A day that will live in infamy." I knew 9/11 would join those days.

I wanted to pray but didn't know how.  Growing up Protestant, I never prayed the rosary until that night.  I had recently ordered an item on eBay and the seller had included a plastic rosary with a card on how to pray it as a gift.  I said Hail Mary-s until I fell asleep with the rosary in my hand.

9/11 was on a Tuesday.  On Saturday evening, I met my friend at Pizza Hut.  After that I went to a bar with a friend.  I don't drink, so I got a Diet Pepsi.  I remember our conversation -- would the draft be instituted?  Would he have to go to war?  All this while karaoke was going on.  There was only one song everyone wanted to sing that night.  "God Bless the U.S.A."  I can never hear the words "I'm proud to be an American" without thinking of September 15, 2001 and all the half drunk people singing about their patriotism.

I can barely remember 1976.  But I do remember how everything was patriotic for a few years when I was little.  We even have photos of me in a little red, white, and blue toddler winter hat.  The months after 9/11 were very much like that in terms of patriotism. American flags were sold out everywhere.  Anyone who had an American flag and hadn't been flying it started displaying it.  I remember being able to count 20 flags I could see from standing on my front porch.  Even Christmas gift wrap that year was patriotic.  I remember this because we bought so much gift wrap in the days after Christmas that year it was almost 15 years before we needed to buy wrapping paper again.  Our local Walmart went in that year and they didn't know how much they needed in terms of holiday supplies, they overbought, and it went down to 90% off.  For years we were using metallic paper with red, white, and blue stars for our Christmas gifts.  

The children born at that time graduated high school this year.  They were born in a world where 9/11 was just fresh in our minds, graduated in the middle of a pandemic. I don't envy those kids.  They have to be more resilient than those of us who are now middle aged as they have had to adapt, but I can't imagine starting life in the shadow of 9/11 and beginning adulthood in the middle of a pandemic.

So where were YOU on 9/11?

Sunday, September 6, 2020

City of Trolls -- Mount Horeb Wisconsin


When people ask me where some of my favorite travel destinations have been, Mount Horeb is near the top of the list.  A town in Wisconsin with under 10,000 people, yet I have so many memories and photos of there. 

In 2017, my husband and I went to the Church of the Nazarene General Assembly in Indianapolis, as it was a closer way to get to a college reunion for me than going to Tennessee.  Afterwards, my husband and I decided to travel through the midwest a bit, going out to Antique Archeology in Iowa and then heading back.  It's a bucket list item for me to travel to all 50 states, so we did what, as a child I used to call "the longcut" and went through southern Wisconsin so we could travel through another state.

I was getting restless, and wanted to stop and do something, so I started checking my apps.  Apps I generally check when I'm getting restless on a road trip are for thrift stores, Roadside America (I have the upgraded version for the entire USA, and it's been well worth it to me, especially since my state and the next state from me are in different regions), and geocaching. I saw on Roadside America that we were close to Mount Horeb, and it said it was filled with trolls.  Needless to say, this intrigued me and I found a geocache in that town that had good reviews, told my husband to put it in the GPS and we were off.

Also, the geocache I put into the GPS?  It was located at a local business -- outside so it could be accessed anytime.  It's commonplace for "swag" to be exchanged in geocaches, and this geocache was filled with great swag from the insurance company.  So, we have a pizza cutter advertising an insurance agency in Mount Horeb that we used regularly!  When having a fun meal, it's a great way to remember a welcoming town that we would have missed if it hadn't been for the trolls.

Amazingly, this town has almost two dozen trolls.  They are expertly carved, and we went from troll to troll taking photos.  According to the Mount Horeb Chamber of Commerce in the 1970s a store put a troll in their lawn to attract business and truckers started talking about it.  When a bypass was built, the town decided to put up trolls to attract visitors.  I have to say, it worked.  We stopped at a town we otherwise would have missed to visit all the trolls.  We had fun, went to a local bar and ordered Wisconsin cheese curds.  The waitress reminded me of my grandmother, and that was a lot of fun.  She was thrilled to serve a couple their very first cheese curds.  She was quite interested in the fact we were from West Virginia and just decided to stop in. 

Another fun memory is while we were taking photos of the trolls, we found a couple painted rocks.  This was when the trend was just starting and it was the first painted rock I had ever found.  It just seemed to round out the enjoyment of our detour off the Interstate into a friendly town in the midwest before continuing on our journey.