9/11 and My Mom

Feeling a little contemplative today, not just because of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and reading all the “Where were you when you heard?” commentaries, but also because two women I know lost parents in the last couple of weeks. One lost her dad suddenly, in a tragic car accident. The other lost her mother to lung cancer, the same cancer that claimed my mother’s life. Reading this woman’s account of her mom’s last weeks just brought back the pain of waiting for my mom’s suffering to end, especially as we near the anniversary of her death.

It’s been four years (almost to the day, I think) since Zachary and the kids and I moved back home from across the country, in part to be with my mom as she battled cancer. We didn’t know, as we closed on the old house and packed up our belongings, that she’s have less than two months left on earth.

I lived in another state than my family the day of 9/11, but my mom was in town to help me with the joyous task of shopping for a wedding dress. Zachary and I had been engaged for a month, and my mom was so excited. That weekend we did a little shopping and that Tuesday morning we were supposed to go back for round two. Zachary was already at work but I had the day off from my illustrious job as a waitress. I got up kind of late and, as normal, read the newspaper instead of watched TV. I rarely watch TV during the day, and almost never watch the news.

I remember checking my e-mail and on the Yahoo! page was a headline about a plane hitting the WTC. I figured it was probably a small plane and that no one was injured. Then I headed over to a wedding-planning forum, one of my favorite ways to pass time since I was so consumed with wedding planning, as many brides-to-be are. It was there that I clicked on a link about the WTC towers being hit and collapsing.

I immediately called my mom, who was staying at my aunt and uncle’s house, and turned on the TV. I can remember feeling very scared and alone, but at least my mom was in the same state as me, and her calming words helped me settle down. We decided that it was not a day to go do something as happy as shop for wedding gowns, so I stayed in my pajamas in my apartment and watched coverage of the events all day long.

The plan for a few days later was for me to fly back home with my mom to check out wedding venues. We optimistically boarded a plane and flew to our layover destination (I can’t believe I did that – I am normally a nervous flier, anyway, but flying days after airplanes had been used in terrorist attacks was not easy for anyone, I imagine), only to find when we got there that not enough flight attendants had come to work for our flight to go. Everyone at the airport was tense and upset – flights were being delayed and canceled left and right, and travelers were taking out their fear and frustration on the airline employees.

A man in line in front of mom and I yelled and yelled at a poor flight attendant. I can’t even think about how brave you’d have to be to go back to work on an airplane days after an event like this. She melted under the angry man’s words. She cried. “Sir, we are all just doing the best we can!”

The airline put us stranded travelers in hotels rooms. It was late by the time we finally had our vouchers and arrived at our hotel, well past midnight, if I remember correctly. I was already agitated so I had a hard time falling asleep (plus my mom snored, which I can look back on with a smile now that she’s gone).

The next day we decided only my mom would head back home, since I was only supposed to be gone for two days, anyway. So my mom and I took separate planes back to our homes. That was probably the last time I stayed in a hotel with her. Our little adventure.

Five Septembers later my mom would bear little resemblance to her 2001 self. Her body had been drained by cancer, she had no hair, she had to sit in a wheelchair. She spoke slowly and didn’t always make sense, thanks to a brain tumor and pain medication. And so, for me, looking back on the original 9/11 brought back not just the shock and horror of the attacks, but also the days just before, when my mom was healthy and we were happy and she was here.



  1. Thinking of you during this difficult time…It’s so sad to hear the same story over and over…The Big C has claimed so many mothers from all our lives…It’s just devastating!!! Hang in there…

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