My mother was always a careful driver. But this time, as we went to the headquarters, she seemed to be going a bit too fast. We arrived at the headquarters in record time. Mother raced us quickly into the building and talked to a lady behind the front desk.
"Could you put a movie on for them?" my mother asked.
"Of course," said the lady sympathetically as she strode over to the television and popped a "Barney" tape into the player. Before the movie started, I saw some of the news channel playing behind it. The lady was talking too fast for me to hear, but I didn't need to listen. It wasn't much of an image, just a moving picture of a pillar of smoke. And in the background... buildings? I thought that I recognized the skyline. New York City.
But then the show started, and all of my attention was focused on that. My brother and I sat in front of the television, mesmerized by the colors and pictures on the screen.
After about twenty minutes, I grew bored of the program. Looking around, I noticed that my mother had gone. I stood up slowly, as not to disturb my brother, and headed through the only open door that I could see. It led to a hallway, with another open door... and in that room, I found her.
She was talking on the phone again, the lady at the desk writing down notes as she spoke. The concerned look on my mother's face had turned to one of fear.
"Mommy, who are you talking to?" I asked again. And again, she put a finger to her lips, not pausing to take a break from her speaking. I took a seat in a chair next to her to wait for her to finish.
Once she finally put down the telephone I began to speak, but she was too quick. She had already begun to ask hurried questions to the lady behind the desk.
"You mean to tell me that you don't know which flight my husband was piloting?" she asked, reaching near hysterics.
"I'm sorry, we don't have it on record," said the woman apologetically. "I could ask the main desk if-"
Her sentence was cut off. "TRAGEDY! TRAGEDY!" My brother ran into the room, screaming at the top of his lungs. "TRAGEDY!" he screamed again.
"Honey, what's wrong?" she asked him, but something in her eyes said that she already knew.
"Tragedy, Mommy!" he repeated, pulling on her hand.
I followed as my mother was pulled from the office all the way back into the main room. The "Barney" tape had ejected, and the news reel was playing in the background. The skyscrapers stood tall behind a pillar of smoke and flames on the screen. "HUNDREDS FEARED DEAD" was printed in bold letters at the top of the picture.
"We have to go," said my mother hurriedly over her shoulder to the woman behind her. She snatched the remote control and turned off the television before taking us both by the hand and leading us through the door.
I remember most of what happened that day from the perspective of a child, and I'm willing to protest anyone who tells me that children don't get scared the same way that adults do. Because the minute that I learned that my father might have been the pilot involved in this national tragedy, I felt more true fear than most adults have felt in their entire lives at age six. My father is alive and well today and we live together as one happy family, but we will never forget the uncertainty and fear brought upon by this event. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to bring people together, and if that is what it takes, then we can face it as one.
This is a true story.