A Mother’s Intuition and 9/11

9/11 and mother's intuition

A happier vacation moment.

Like everyone else on September 11, 2001, where we were and what we were doing is locked into our memories. My family’s experience that day served to remind me that a mother’s intuition can be more powerful than the electronic devices we normally use to stay in touch.

My husband’s brother enjoyed taking our kids on short educational vacations. It was his way of contributing to their homeschool experiences while also indulging in his own love of history. For a few days that week in September he took two of our sons, then ages eight and eleven, on a learning-intensive trip from our Ohio home to Washington, D.C. He enjoyed fully documenting these trips. He took lots of photos and videos, bought commemorative items, collected every possible brochure, and had the kids call home at least twice each day to report on all they were doing. He always left a left a clear itinerary for us to follow.

On September 11, 2001 their agenda included the Pentagon and the White House.

At home with our other two children, I rhapsodized about the blue skies and lovely weather, calling it a “perfect day.” No intuition there. I wasn’t aware of the terrorist attacks until a friend called, telling me to turn on the television. I had no idea what he was talking about and asked what channel. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s on every channel.”

The moment I saw footage of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers I felt sure that there would be more devastation in more places. I phoned my brother-in-law immediately. I wanted to tell him two things. First, abort the trip, but drive home away from major population centers (I felt sure other cities would be under attack). And second, listen to the radio infrequently as possible so my boys wouldn’t be alarmed by the media coverage.

As I dialed, reports flooded in that a second plane had hit the towers. My call didn’t go through. I reached my husband at work but still couldn’t get through to my brother-in-law. My mother-in-law, who also had a copy of their itinerary, was frantic. She became even more frantic when the Pentagon was attacked. My husband left work and spent the day with her, trying to calm her fears and, like me, trying to reach his brother.

By now Flight 93 had turned over our area of Ohio. It was heading for a collision course with the White House until passengers seized control of the plane and it went down in a remote area of Pennsylvania. Three places hit. The media kept speculating about other cities under potential attack. Our phone kept ringing.

Every time a friend or family member called to discuss the unfolding horrors, I told them I needed to get off the phone in hopes my brother-in-law might get through. And each time they reacted with a great deal more alarm than I felt. Suddenly they knew two little boys who very well might have been at the Pentagon when it was attacked and who were still unaccounted for on this tragic day.

Their reactions, which should have increased my anxiety, didn’t. Although I was as overwhelmed as anyone by what felt like a day out of time, I was completely sure that my sons and their uncle were fine. I knew my brother-in-law would rise to the crisis. This wasn’t in keeping with my worry-prone personality but something, maybe a mother’s intuition, told me they were safe and would be home. Each time I talked to my husband we assured each other that our boys would be fine. I tried to talk to my mother-in-law but she could only cry on the phone. Even before I heard from my missing family members, I began to fear that my country might retaliate and more lives would be lost.

Hours dragged by. Each time we tried to call my brother-in-law we got the same recorded message: “all circuits are busy.”

It wasn’t until late that afternoon, more than six hours after the first attack of 9/11, that we finally heard from my brother-in-law. He’d found a pay phone and managed to get a call through, landline to landline. The connection wasn’t good but it was clear they were safe, on the road, and would be driving until they made it back.

 When they got home we heard our children’s experience of 9/11. The boy’s first choice of the day had been the White House. They emerged from the metro and started walking as a full evacuation seemed to be underway. People in business clothes were running full tilt from office buildings. Officers with squawking radios were everywhere. So they turned around, got back on the now-jammed metro, and made their way very slowly back to the hotel before setting off for the long trip home. The boys tried unsuccessfully to talk their uncle into letting them swim first.

It wasn’t until they were much older that my boys understood the tragic magnitude of 9/11. Their memories have more to do with a trip cut short, a crowded metro, and very serious grown-ups. I don’t believe their uncle ever gave them videos or pictures from that trip either. If only we could unmake a day that easily.

15 thoughts on “A Mother’s Intuition and 9/11

  1. As a mother myself, I can definitely relate to being worry-prone and the type of panic that can ensue from knowing that your child is sick or has been hurt but you definitely kept calm throughout such a trying ordeal of not knowing anything at all except for their plans for the day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great post… I can’t imagine how you felt but thankfully in the end you knew they were okay. My children were in school but I wanted to pick them up and hug them tight. It’s the first time in my life that our country was really under attack and I felt helpless and lost, like most Americans. I think each of us remember where we were and what we were doing, these memories don’t fade. Thanks for sharing your story!😄

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a powerful story. I’m so glad your mother’s intuition proved to be reliable, and that your boys were safe. Your poor mother-in-law! I hope she recovered well from her day of terror. Even for those of us watching from very far away, it was an awful, frightening day.

    Liked by 1 person

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