When something earth shattering happens, people tend to talk about that moment a lot. They seem always to remember where they were, and what they were doing. September 11, 2001 found me at home because my girls would be bringing their children over before school. I was getting ready for work, and I would drop the kids off at school before I went to work. My daughters had to be to work an hour earlier than I did. When my daughter, Corrie Petersen came in, she was on the phone with her husband, Kevin and she said, “The World Trade Center is on fire…and so is the Pentagon!” My mind couldn’t comprehend how that could be. I said, “How can that be…they are nowhere near each other?” It was just like finding out that President Kennedy had been shot on the street outside our home, when a friend told us as we went outside to play. These kinds of events and what we were doing when…are almost seared into our brains.
That was the way it was for my great aunt, Bertha Schumacher and her sister, Elsa. Bertha writes that she and Elsa were ironing clothes when the news came over the radio that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. She writes that they were dumb-founded because the ambassador from Japan had just visited FDR…talking peace! It was a moment that should have taught our nation that it is unwise to trust human beings without reservation…but we are slow to learn that, and so things have happened again and again. For people like my great aunts and me, I think it is disheartening that these things happen within our own borders. For Aunt Bertha, it became a time to be chronicled. She believed that it was important for people to be able to read “simple, unvarnished accounts” of how people felt when these earth shattering events took place.
For my dad, World War II became a life changing event. He went from being a 20 year old young man, to a Top Turret Gunner and Flight Engineer in a matter of months. He had never kept big secrets from his family, and didn’t later on either, but during the war his letters had to be guarded. He couldn’t say too much because the security of their squadron and many others depended on absolute secrecy. He also had to be guarded because he didn’t want to worry his mother. He felt such a need to protect her from worry, and she, knowing what war really was all about tried to keep him from knowing that she was indeed worrying. No matter how hard we try not to be, we were affected by the events surrounding our lives, whether they are personal or environmental.
I know that for me, that sense of security that existed pre-September 11th, is missing. I know that an attack is possible, and that there are within our borders, people who want to destroy this nation. The United States of America is too amazing to think that events like these could take it down, but if freedom and security aren’t protected, they could do just that. When I think of Aunt Bertha and Aunt Elsa hearing about the war on television on December 7, 1941, and how frightening that must have seemed…how anguished they must have felt, I find myself thinking how awful that must have been. I have lived through several wars in my lifetime, but not a world war…although I think it is coming. I wish there could be less earth shattering moments, but I don’t think we have seen the last of them.