Each year, as Sept. 11 comes up on the calendar, I am sure you join me in remembering where you were/what you were doing when this tragic day began in 2001. I am pretty confident that I was doing something no one else in the entire United States was -- buying carrots for an iguana! You probably have never even known anyone who did that on ANY day of the year. But let me give you that background. Since this is a true story, I will use the real names of the people involved in my memories.
Four days earlier, our just-turned-10-year-old grandson came to stay with us while his parents went to California for 10 days. When the weekend was over, he and I went to Orangeburg early Monday morning to have him at Clark Magnet School by 7:50 a.m. My plans were to be there until Brad and Tracy returned on the 17th, and his granddad was going to join us on a couple of nights too.
On Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, 2001, after Skyler checked off his daily list of chores, he told me that Iggy (his iguana) was out of carrots and asked if I could buy some. I thought the simplest thing to do was to shop for those right after I dropped him off at school. Therefore, this purchase occurred at almost the very time the day of terror began.
Knowing that I was coming back to the house very shortly, I had not even turned the TV off. When I unlocked the back door, Katie Couric, a reporter on NBC’s TODAY show, was saying that a plane had struck one of the twin towers in New York City. Looking at a photo of smoke billowing out of the tower, I thought to myself, “It’s strange that a plane would crash into a building on such a beautiful clear day.” As I continued to watch and listen, I felt as if the breath was sucked out of my body when the second plane crashed into the other tower. I knew then it was no accident.
My next thought was, “I HAVE to call Brad. It’s only 6:15 in California, and they will have no idea what is going on.” When he answered, I just said, “Turn the TV on!” Then I gave him a brief summary up to that point. And the day’s events continued to unfold as the hours passed.
By midmorning, I just felt a compelling need to come home (to Providence) to SEE husband Charlie and son Bart who were working here. I even wondered if they KNEW what had happened, since they would have been out to take care of things on the farm before the first crash. (You have to remember, we did not have cell phones then. There was the bag phone you carried in your vehicle, but not one that fit in your pocket. So certainly there were no mass communications like Facebook, etc.) But, OF COURSE they knew! After getting myself somewhat grounded, I headed back to Orangeburg to pick Skyler up from school in the afternoon.
In MY mind, a fifth-grader did not need to deal with all that was shown on the constant news reports, so when he got home, the TV was off. I pretty much let him make the schedule, and after his homework and chores were done, he and I either went out to eat or picked up food. We played a LOT of board games. I remember that he wanted to play chess, but I didn’t know the rules. So he carefully drew each chess piece and wrote the name beside it. Then he wrote the direction which each one was allowed to move so I could follow the diagram!
Also, that is the only time in my life that I played Monopoly until one person had ALL of the money. He was so tickled that he took a picture of my sadness! We kept our time together free of stress from the situation the country was in. We talked with his parents every afternoon-evening.
As you remember, all airports were closed, so that meant Brad and Tracy could not get home right away. But fortunately, the airports reopened on the day they had return plane reservations. That was the first day of what has now become normal security checks. Lines were very long, since rules were new. We were so glad when they were back on this side of the country, and they were equally as happy.
You never know which memories will stick, do you? Just last year, I asked my grandchildren what they remember about that day. Since they were between 5 and 13 years old, most of their memories are from things they have been told or read themselves in later years. I’m relieved that not everyone carries scars from that day.
And I’ve never had anyone challenge my claim to being the only person in the United States who was buying carrots for an iguana when the first plane struck one of the twin towers in New York City. Also, in case you are wondering, Iggy lived happily in Orangeburg for a long while, even after his owner went to college.
Harriet L. Hutto of Providence is periodic contributor to The Times and Democrat.
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