Sunday, September 10, 2006


I had no idea what was going on that bright September morning. I was reading a chapter book to my homeschooled children when the phone rang. As usual, I let it go to the answering machine. It was our piano teacher.

"I'm just letting all my students know that I understand if you don't want to come for lessons today. Of course, you live so close that it probably won't be dangerous for you to come or anything, but still, I understand if you'd rather stay home." Hang-up.

We live six or seven doors down from our then-piano teacher. I stopped reading and looked out the window. The sun still shone brightly. What could she be talking about? I decided to call her back. Beep, beep, beep, beep--it was busy.

I went back to reading aloud and the phone rang again. This time I answered it.

"It's me," my husband said. (He was supposed to be flying out of Chicago on a business trip to Los Angeles--could he be there already?) "I just wanted to let you know that I'm fine. Our plane was re-directed to Tulsa and we just landed. Mike went to get us a car and I'm going to check into a room, and we'll see what we need to do after that."

"Honey--what's going on?"

"You mean you haven't heard? Terrorists just flew a plane into the World Trade Center. Turn on the television!"

"Oh, my gosh. No, we've been homeschooling and I've just been reading to the kids...."

"Well, get the TV on--this is history! I love you."

We turned on the news just in time to see the second plane hit the Twin Towers and hear that another had hit the Pentagon. As I tried to absorb the new reality of living in a country under attack, my first thought was: Is it safe to drink the water?

In the next 24 hours, my husband and his coworker realized that they weren't going to make it to L.A. anytime soon. They decided to drive their local-only rental car back to Chicago from Tulsa, correctly assuming that their company would be glad to pay the steep fines in order to have them back at work, instead of running up hotel bills in Tulsa.

In that same 24 hours, a nation grieved its dead and celebrated its heroes. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who'd died that day, and on everyone's lips, it seemed, was the name Todd Beamer. He was certainly not the only hero of that day--others on that plane and so many nameless firefighters died just as bravely, just as sacrificially, just as heroically. But to a culture that thinks in sound bites, his "Let's roll" was a nutshell for the indomitable spirit of a nation--a nation prone to activism, a nation that wouldn't take this attack lying down. "Let's roll," he said--and we did, at least in spirit.

Todd Beamer graduated from Papa Rooster's and my alma mater, just a few years after we did; he was there at the same time as my Professor Brother. Wheaton College has named its new student center after Todd. We take our kids to the college regularly for concerts and plays, and we often go to the snack bar at the Beamer Center afterwards for huge, cheap ice cream cones. As we enter, we pass a wall-sized resin relief of Todd Beamer, holding the hands of his two young sons, their three backs to us as they walk off into a cloudy background. (I can't believe there isn't a picture of it anywhere on the internet! The sculptor is another alum and brother of a friend of ours from church.) I'm glad my kids get to see this regular reminder of that day and of a regular guy, who became--in the moment of crisis--a hero.

My Danish friend Anette, at Liquidoxology, recently commented that from her European perspective, Americans have "a desire to tap into the heroic. America is - among other things - a cradle of heroes, you know."

"A cradle of heroes." Is that what I'm raising? We read biographies of heroes--of great men and women. We applaud character and virtue whenever we find it in our reading, in movies, in real life. We pray for these same qualities in our children's lives, that they would grow to be men and women of strength in the Lord.

Heroes...maybe so.

Sometimes you're clueless.

(For more 9/11 remembrances, visit Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer and this week's Carnival of the Blogging Chicks.)


Pass The Torch said...

This is a great post. I was so clueless that morning too. It was a beautiful day.

And then the terror and confusion.

So many similar threads in these memories.

What an interesting perspective about the cradle of heroes. I guess that may be true, especially when we remember days like this one.

Thanks for visiting my memory post as well.

Donna Boucher said...

A cradle of heros. I love that.

I grew up in Wheaton! I wish my daughter could go to college there...but it has gotten so expensive and difficult to get in. (My son with a 28 on his ACT did not get in, I was told the average incomming freshman had a 32. Yow)

I love it down there :o)

Islandsparrow said...

Thanks for sharing your 9-11 story. Our thoughts are with you and your nation today.

At A Hen's Pace said...

Donna--Yes, it has gotten much harder to get in since I went there! I had the same ACT score as your son (though I was salutatorian of my small high school too--that probably helped).

Cool that you grew up there! It's such a nice area--though no longer affordable. The tear-downs are going for $350K and up. It's sad.

Donna Boucher said...

Patrick was also the salutatorian at a small Christian School!!

I went to Honey Rock you know of it?

At A Hen's Pace said...

Sure--every Wheatie knows Honey Rock. I haven't been there since my senior year though. My husband's college roommate is the director now. When were you there?

Donna Boucher said...

Probably before you were born!!!

I went the summer just before 8th that would be around 1971.

I loved singing. We sang and sang and I learned so many wonderful songs that I hadn't heard before.

Pass it on
How Great Thou Art
He's Everything to Me

We sang the Doxology before parts and I loved it.
And we sang as the flag was raised and lowered every day.

It's my favorite memory of Homeyrock.

At A Hen's Pace said...

Well, I was not so far behind you as you might think--in first grade!

What a great memory, though. We sang those songs at my summer camp in Ohio, too.

Holymama! said...

what a lovely post - and your friend anette has a nice way with words also!