9/11: While I Was Gone, The World Changed

sept11b

Where Were You On Sept. 11th?

I was in Argentina teaching at a bible school when the phone rang on Sept 11th, 2001. The pastor’s wife was frantic and didn’t speak English very well. She told me that there had been a horrible attack on the US. I went online and read what I thought was a screenplay for a Spielberg movie. When reality set in I could hardly believe it.

There was a news story, but what caught my eye was what was written above it in bold red letters: “A Second Plane has Just Hit the World Trade Center.” A Second plane, I thought. Brandon, one of my students from the US who was traveling with me, and I watched Spanish-speaking news all day long in shock.

That night I had to go and teach my class. It wasn’t easy. I felt like a family member had died, but I couldn’t go to the funeral. I would have left early but no planes were flying into the US. On Thursday the 14th we had no idea if we would be able to fly home on time or not. I remember Brandon and I actually looked into flying Air Mexicana into Monterrey, Mexico, renting a car, and driving to Texas.

On the 15th I was told that my flight would be the first from Buenos Aires to the US. When I arrived at the airport and saw Americans for the first time since the attack, I felt halfway home. Everyone was talking with each other, comforting, consoling and encouraging. We all said that this plane would not be high jacked and we meant it. I had never felt that type of camaraderie with total strangers in my life. (Of course, in Israel that is commonplace, given the number of tragedies, wars and attacks against us.)

As we were about to board, the air crew said that they were not satisfied with the airport security and set up a makeshift security check in the waiting area and made everyone go through again. Amazingly, no one complained.

Once we landed in Chicago, it was a nightmare. Thousands of people who had been stranded for days were trying to get home. There were several different lines, each too long to see where they led, and no one to give direction. Finally I got on a flight to DC and on the way I was able to get my first look at a newspaper…and that is when the enormity of the attacks hit me. I sat there and wept.

When I arrived at Dulles, I was scheduled to fly to Richmond in the late afternoon. I wanted to see my family not sit exhausted in an airport. I left my bags and rented a car. The drive home was only 90 minutes and I couldn’t imagine waiting all day for a 25-minute flight. I picked up my bags the next day at the Richmond airport, as they had flown without me. Things have changed of course. If someone who has checked in doesn’t get on the flight, they will pull your bags. That is one of the meanings of a ‘post 9/11 world.’

Finally around noon, having not really slept for at least 30 hours, barely able to keep my eyes open, I pulled in front of my house. Never in all my years of traveling, since then or before, have I been happier to be home. Never had hugging my wife and holding my children meant so much.

While I was gone the world had changed, and it would never be the same.

Committed with you to the Messiah’s Mandate,

Ron Cantor

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