September 12, 2016 12:43 pm
In every life there are at least a few frozen moments, a handful of events where time slows to a crawl. These frozen moments invariably change our lives. My husband’s murder is, for me, one of those events. When an event like this occurs, the people involved will always remember what they were doing, where they were, when they heard the news or when the event happened to them. But that sense of stopped time, the realization that the event is a before/after experience, usually only effects a handful of people at once. One car crash, one house fire, one winning lottery ticket. They pack a powerful punch, but only for those people very close to the event.
Very rarely, however, something happens which is so big, so powerful, it changes the lives of countless millions of people. When an event like that happens entire nations can have a before/after moment. This happened to America in December of 1941 with the attack on Pearl Harbor. It happened again when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and again in 1969 when men first landed on the Moon. But the most recent event like this that happened was surely the September 11th terrorist attacks.
I’d like to tell you where I was, and what happened to me that day.
On that fateful morning I was driving through rush-hour traffic from our home in Binghamton, New York to visit my father at Hilltop Nursing Home a few miles away. I was listening to Focus on the Family on the car radio, and was surprised when an announcer came on saying, “We are interrupting this program for an urgent message.” My hands started shaking as the radio announcer told of an airplane crashing into one of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center. I looked at people in nearby cars and knew that they had also just received the awful news. It felt like my breath was being sucked out of me and I prayed that God would help me to drive safely to Hilltop. I was glued to the radio as I drove, desperate for any updates, especially positive ones, but the situation just kept getting worse and worse. The voice on the radio relayed how a second plane had just struck the other Twin Tower. Shortly after that came word of the Pentagon being struck. It was nothing short of horrifying. I kept driving.
When I finally arrived at Hilltop I parked and fairly ran into the building. Inside the home was unusually quiet except for the TV announcing the news. As I headed to my father’s room I was able to see for the first time what I had only heard described. It was even worse than I had imagined. All the nurses and staff were trying to do their work but at the same time keeping one eye on the TV.
I rushed to my father’s room imagining how distraught he would be by the news, but I was surprised to find him unresponsive. The nurse bustled into the room, and I asked what was happening with my dad.
“Well,” she said, “He was awake and alert this morning when I came to check on him. He said good morning and asked me how I had slept.” She smiled. “I always ask that question first, but he really wanted to know. I looked at him and said ‘I slept very well, Rev. Jones. Thank you. How about you? How did you sleep?’ He said, ‘I slept well too. I didn’t even hear you snore.’ He’s always joking like that. Well, I told him I’d go get his breakfast, but when I came up with it, this was how I found him. He’s been semi-comatose since then.”
I was worried, of course, but I was also thinking about the tragedy unfolding in New York and Washington, D.C.. I said to her “When did this happen?” My eyes flicked to the nearby TV. “Did he see what’s happening?”
The kind nurse smiled again. “No, Grace, he surely didn’t. I came up with his breakfast before 8:30, and he was already unconscious by then.”
Over the next several days, as America reeled from those attacks and rescue workers fought inch by inch to save anyone they could, my father weakened. He never regained consciousness. I am very glad that he was never aware of the tragedy that had just occurred. He had lived a generous and good life, devoted to God and to his fellow Men, and I’m sure he would not have been able to comprehend how such evil could ever happen. He died peacefully six days later at the age of 99 ½, spared from the pain of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Whenever September 11 comes around and we pause to remember that horror, I think of my dear father, Clarence Eddie Jones, and the blessing he was given, to die without ever having to deal with that form of evil.
And how about you, my dear reader? Where were you on September 11th, 2001?
This post was written by Grace Fabian