It was time to leave New York City. The trip had been such a wonderful experience, two-fold. First of all and most importantly, perhaps my boy had a chance to kick his addiction and secondly, what an incredible opportunity I had had in spending those days with my seven children.
We were on the 34th floor of the Marriott Marquis Hotel. We had the blinds pulled open letting in the beautiful autumn sunlight as we packed our bags. Checkout time was 11:00 a.m. and since we didn't leave NYC until that evening, we planned on leaving our bags at the bell hop station and getting in some last minute sightseeing.
It's funny how one can remember exactly what they were doing at a given time on a given day. I was standing in front of the window ironing something. I can't remember what the something was, only that I was ironing. Mark and Sheree were sitting on the other bed in our room. We were watching television as we packed, just as the first plane hit the World Trade Center. I remember looking out the window just then and thinking "It's not cloudy or foggy or anything. How could the pilot not see the World Trade Center?" Then the second plane hit.
"Mom," Sheree said. "It's a terrorist attack!"
All of my other children and Charmane came running in from their room. We all stood around watching the terror unfold.
The third plane hit the Pentagon, and I worried about your Aunt Lola. My sister and her husband Boyd were in Washington DC.
Then, the plane went down in Pennsylvania.
What was going to happen next? We were in the heart of New York City and terror was exploding around us. Did they have car bombs they were planning on using? Chemical warfare? All of the "what-ifs" ran through each of our minds. It was you and Mark who went down to the under ground garage and told the manager they needed to get all the cars out from under there.
"Mom," you said to me. "Call down and keep our rooms."
I called the reservation desk and told them we would not be checking out at 11:00. How thankful I am that you had told me to do that, or we would have been out in the streets of NYC for the next five days. Everything was shut down. All tunnels and bridges coming into NYC or leaving, were closed. Airports were shut down as well as the subways and other public means of transportation.
Did our family remember I had changed our tour? Might they think we were in the World Trade Center that morning as we had previously planned? My grandchildren were in school. Since most of them were so close to the same ages and lived in Payson, most attended Taylor Elementary. We called the schools and told the secretary to get in contact with all the Whiting children and let them know we were safe. Then my children called their spouses. I was the last to call your dad.
He was out in the fields on his tractor when his cell phone rang.
"Where are you?" I asked him when he picked up.
"I'm out plowing," he said.
"Go in and turn on the television," I told him. "There's been a terrorist attack in New York City. We are all fine, but we won't be flying home tonight."
After assuring him we were all okay and telling him how very much I loved him, I promised to call him every hour to let him know what was going on. Unfortunately, there would be times I couldn't get through because the lines would be packed with everyone else trying to contact loved ones. Since then, I've thought how many might have been those trapped in the WTC trying to call and tell the ones they loved goodbye.