When Everything Changed

I was in Ephrata, Pennsylvania when it happened. Eating breakfast at a truck stop with a friend, crying because the night before, I had discovered that my boyfriend was cheating on me. I felt like my entire world had fallen to pieces.

A small television, tuned to a morning talk show, sat on a shelf above the cash register. When we went to pay for our meals, we saw the image of the first jet airplane flying into a tower. What did it mean? How could something like that happen? It must have been a terrible accident.

I said goodbye to my friend, walked outside and got in my car. I started the engine, turned on the radio, and headed for home. Moments later, a reporter announced that a second plane had flown into a second tower.

That’s when I knew it wasn’t an accident.

Instead of going home, I drove toward Lancaster City, where my 20 year old son was working at a clothing store. Our eyes met when I walked into the store. He told his boss that he was going to take a short break. Then we went outside and sat on the edge of the sidewalk, watching the traffic going by and listening to birds singing in the trees. After several minutes of silence, my son said: “Mom, if we go to war, I’m joining the military.”

“I know,” I whispered. “That’s why I’m here.”

We soon learned that a third airplane had flown into the Pentagon, and a fourth hijacked plane had crashed in a field in western Pennsylvania. The World Trade Center in New York was approximately 150 miles north and east of where my family and I lived at that time. The Pentagon was 125 miles south of us, and the Pennsylvania field was 160 miles west. Our country was under attack and we were surrounded.

My boyfriend problem didn’t seem so important anymore.