My husband, Joel, and I were on a bicycle trip in Vermont with our daughter, Kellie, and her new husband, Eddie Mendenhall. It was about 11 a.m. when a fellow member of our tour group stopped me to share what had happened.
Some men were painting a house along a Vermont country road. They listened to the reports of the disaster on a portable radio as they worked. As each rider in our group came upon the painters, we each stopped to listen with them. Soon we all stood there in total disbelief.
We had no cell phone service, and used a pay phone in a small Vermont town to check in with our families back home in Vancouver.
Our plan was to go to New Hampshire for a few days after our bike trip and fly back home on Sept. 16. My husband continued to believe that our plane would take off on that date from Boston’s Logan International Airport. We could not convince him otherwise. Then he saw on the TV news that no planes would be flying, and he reconciled himself to the fact we would be driving all the way home.
Under the circumstances, our car rental company waived the fee for not returning the car to Logan Airport. We were retired, but our kids had to get back to work, so we drove about 15 hours a day.
As we gassed up in New Hampshire to head home, a lady was there passing out tiny American flags. We saw American flags flying all the way across the country. It was both heart wrenching and heart warming.
It was so eerie to see the sky devoid of aircraft. Finally as we passed Chicago, we saw one plane in the air and knew life was beginning to return to normal.
Of course, it is now a new normal. As we take our grandkids on trips with us, it’s hard for them to understand that there used to be no security lines. That in the past Mom and Dad could have waited at the gate to see us off. We could have brought our own water past security and wouldn’t have to pay an arm and a leg to purchase it. And some years ago, if you mentioned having to remove your shoes before you could be approved to fly, people would have looked at you in disbelief.
While security measures are less than perfect and a real hassle, we still fly. Joel and I flew to Hawaii to do a service trip on the USS Missouri in December 2001. We were there for the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day. It seemed appropriate to take a stand for the freedom my dad and others fought for back then. And if we stop living our lives because of fear of terrorism now, we will have given up that very freedom so many before us died to maintain.
Note: A condensed version of this story appeared on page D7 of The Columbian on Sept. 11, 2011.