Pete and i were at the Halifax airport after a beautiful week-long vacation in Nova Scotia. Our bags were checked and we were heading to the gate ready to board our flight to JFK in New York. Walking down the corridor, we passed an airport cafe where a large group of people were gathered around a tiny old television set that had such bad reception, the picture was all snowy and barely visible. I thought it was a local station showing a small plane that flew into a farm's silo that then caught on fire. I remarked to Pete about how that must be such a big deal there in the rural parts of Nova Scotia, especially during the early fall harvest months when the silos were likely full of grain. We didn't think anything more of it and continued on, until we were stopped in our tracks when we heard our names being called over the loud speaker. We were told to report to the gate agent immediately. When we got there, she told us that the United States' borders had been closed and no flights would be going to New York or anywhere in the U.S. that day. Our bags could be picked up at baggage claim. She didn't have any other information to share. We asked her how we should go about getting a refund for our tickets, and she told us that in the case of acts of terrorism, that wouldn't be possible. Terrorism? What was she talking about? She let us know that there was a ferry from Yarmouth to Bar Harbor, Maine, and suggested we try to get on it. It sounded better than staying put at the airport — Pete had to get back to work in D.C. and I was starting a new job in the Empire State Building in just a few days. We were so confused and finally called our families...only to learn the devastating news. Fear, panic, sadness, helplessness, shock.
We were able to rent a car (one of the last ones they had), and it wasn't until we turned on the radio that we had any concrete sense of the magnitude of what had happened. But even that was unfathomable, as you know. We drove in silence and sadness, thinking about all the people who lost their lives that morning, and all the people who lost their loved ones. It makes me sad for them now too. I'm so deeply sorry for your losses.
The U.S. borders were re-opened in the early afternoon on September 12th, and we were able to get on the ferry then. We drove home on the 13th. Home. This little word suddenly meant so much and its meaning to me had changed significantly. Not only does it mean where my family is, where the people i love are, but home is also this country. This great country. I had never been so aware of my feelings of patriotism until being shut out and cut off from the place that had provided me with the comforting familiarity of everyday life. Certainly our country isn't perfect, but in our homes and in our communities, we each hold the potential to at least try to make things better. That we live in a place where that is a possibility, is a gift.
So part of my remembering today includes being grateful for all the men and women who have selflessly dedicated and sacrificed their lives (and continue to do so) in order to preserve and uphold the rights and freedoms that we hold sacred. I often remind myself that i could not be doing what i do today if it weren't for them.