I was sitting in a neighbor’s living room on the evening of September 10, 2001. Our neighborhood was having a meeting with the local utility district about a proposed water tank that was to be erected near by. Everyone felt in one way or another it would have an adverse affect on their way of living, whether it be an unsightly addition to the view through their kitchen window or something larger, like a leak in the tower that could flood our neighborhood. I remember looking at the blueprints of the proposed tank, listening to the PUD representatives promises to make the tank aesthetically pleasing to the neighbors, and feeling pleased that this annoyance was being settled and we could get on with our everyday lives. Little did I know….
The next morning Jeff came into our bedroom and urgently got me out of bed to watch the news. He knows better than to pull me from my morning routine…I’m not a morning a person. By the tone of his voice I knew this was a different morning. I stepped in front of the T.V. at the very moment the first tower fell and along with the rest of the world sat numbed at what I saw.
Hannah and Nick’s internal clocks woke them soon after. It was a school morning, Nick’s fifth day of kindergarden and Hannah’s fifth day of second grade. Separately they shuffled into the family room and stood next to Jeff and I as our eyes locked on the T.V. There are not many moments over the past eighteen years where I have forgotten to be a parent, but at that moment, when our family of four stood paralyzed in front of the television as Peter Jennings predicted the use of over 8,000 body bags, and another plane slammed into the side of a building, and the word ‘terrorism’ was mentioned for the first time, and a cloud of dust erupted from the streets of Manhattan I forgot to be a mom.
An hour later, I can’t remember how, but Hannah and Nick were dressed and ready to walk down our country road to school while a continent away New York City screamed. We live below the elevated flight path of Portland International Airport. The sounds of planes coming and going is a distant hum in our country life. On our walk to school that morning the skies were eerily quiet. By the time we got to school the sounds of the skies were filled with Air National Guard fighter jets dashing across the sky. Nick thought they were cool. I didn’t.
Out here on the West Coast we were touched by September 11. Of course we weren’t slapped to the ground like the East Coast, but we were touched none-the-less. More than anything I don’t think anyone wanted to be alone that day. My friend Kathryn came over and together we sat in front of the t.v. Kathryn’s husband is a reporter for a Portland station so periodically throughout the day he would call Kathryn with what was coming over the news wires. He, along with everyone else, was trying to answer the one word question, “Why?”
Hannah’s best friend’s dad was and still is a pilot for Delta. On the evening of September 10 he flew his westward bound jet out over the Hudson River and caught the final rays of sunlight reflecting off the Twin Towers. He saw from the sky the last time the sun would set on the World Trade Center. Ironically, eleven years to the day later his daughter watched two parallel beams of light stretch from Ground Zero to the heavens from her dorm room on the campus of NYU.
Not many people know this, but the world of international adoptions changed on that morning too and our family was impacted. There is a waiting list in Korean adoptions. We had slowly moved up the list for the next available infant. On September 10th we were #3 on the list so the matching of an infant to our family was imminent. That all changed the second Tuesday of September, 2001. A halt was placed on all international adoptions. Orphans were still born in Korea but during that period of time none were placed internationally. It took several months for adoptions to resume, but the going was slow. We remained #3 on the list for several more months until March of 2002 when we received a small thumbnail picture of a six-week old orphan name Yoon Jae Bum, our Sam. He was born five months after the attacks on America. Somewhere in the world there is an 11-year-old boy who could have been our Sam, who could have been placed in our family in the fall had adoptions not been halted so abruptly, but because of September 11th we have been blessed with this Sam.
Every day I drive by that oversized water tank, painted forest green to be aesthetically pleasing to our neighborhood eyes. Most of the time I pass it without a second glance or thought, but then there are times I drive by it and think of that meeting on September 10, 2001. It is a pinpoint in my minds eye, a bridge if you will, to a pre and post 9/11 world. I think about our petty concerns of that evening in relation to what really mattered less than ten hours later. Sometime in the winter the PUD came in, built it, filled it, landscaped it, and left it while we began to wrap our minds around this new scarred world we had no choice but to live in. Its funny, but I don’t think anyone in the neighborhood mentioned that water tank ever again.