Where Were You On September 11, 2001?

We were climbing the steps to an outside bar. My friend, Joanne, and I always went to the back of the ship to enjoy a cocktail before our early dinner seating. Laughing, almost out of breath, our gaiety was interrupted by the Captain’s voice. He urged all Americans to return to their staterooms for information of importance.

So, of course, we did just that. Entering our room, we sat on the beds and turned on the television. There, like a movie, was a plane hitting a building, exploding into flames causing fire and destruction. Joanne inhaled a breath of air, saying tearfully, “Oh, my God, that’s Chicago!”

flagWe were distraught, speechless and not believing what we saw. Then another plane hit the building next to the first! We did not understand what was happening! Instead, dumbfounded, weary and terrified, we settled in to observe even more on the screen before us. The commentator stated that these pictures were from the city of New York.

After what seemed hours, a shrill voice came into the cabin. All passengers were to go to their muster stations, dressed in warm clothes, carrying life vests and necessary medications. Joanne and I just looked at each other and then dutifully followed those instructions. I remember uttering under my breath, “I bet they found something onboard that could be endangering the passengers.” This seemed logical after witnessing what had happened on our television screens.

My sister and her husband were not at the same muster station. I did see them as we passed on the stairs so I knew they were safe – just in a different place! The crew methodically called names, checked for life jackets and calmly told us to sit until further instructions. My thoughts were back in America, the images of my son and his wife, my dog and other family members tugged at my heartstrings. I suddenly realized how far away we really were and yet, I felt like I could touch home in my thoughts and prayers.

Two hours passed with little to do except sit, wait and think. An order was finally given to return to our rooms. Later we learned that each room on the ship had been thoroughly searched, taking implements like scissors, razors and tweezers. My sister’s very expensive sewing scissors were missing when she returned to her cabin. Unbelievably, a year to that day, she received a package from the cruise line apologizing for the inconvenience – they returned her scissors!

The world was realistically paralyzed for that day and the days after. Heroic rescues, heartbroken families, pets left in apartments, never to see their masters again and uncountable tragedies made up September 11, 2001. Comparing it to the day President Kennedy was shot, these two events will be two of the saddest days in America. There is no count of how many lives changed forever, how our nation was invaded by evil and how our world both internationally and personally would never again be the same.

Looking back, I remember feeling very proud to be an American. Proud of our country, proud of all the people who helped others and proud to be in a foreign country – as an American. Our trip continued on, finishing in Rome seven days later. After saying goodbye to my sister and her husband, it was my turn to present at the ticket counter. I opened my passport and handed it to the agent. I was thrilled to be returning to my beloved country. Though tattered, broken and shaken, I knew home was possible. America would put itself back together again – in fact fourteen years later, we stand strong, having healed with the passage of time.


About the Author

Maryann Hartzell-Curran, a retired educator and counselor, has written a personal account of her journey through the first year of grieving the loss of her husband in her book, “From We to Me,” to help support those who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Maryann founded a successful family therapy practice and taught in the public and private sectors. She also founded and directed a church-based preschool in Lombard, Ill., and gained experience working with the elderly as director of a senior dining center. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in counseling from Illinois Benedictine University.

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