Detour to Little Rock

It had been a tough four years leading up to this long-delayed and much needed vacation. Let’s just say that the launching of our business, a long-held dream of my husband’s, had not been as successful as we had anticipated. Sales growth? Glaciers moved faster.

Notice I say it was a dream of my husband’s; I had never been fully on-board with this venture and wasn’t exactly a pillar of support or strength through the difficult days. The strain of getting this business up and running was not what I had in mind for this phase of our lives, and a certain entrepreneur bore the brunt of my pity party. Everybody say “Awwwww, poor Barb, she’s having to deal with a setback.  Isn’t that terrible?”

At the lowest point we had exactly one mortgage payment left in the bank. I had no choice but to go back to work selling real estate, a career at which I excelled but not-so-secretly loathed. Square peg in round hole sums it up. I had hoped those days were far behind me and now imagined myself a poor downtrodden and beleaguered beast of burden. Absolutely insufferable, wasn’t I?

We managed to hang on by the hair of our chinny-chin-chins and, finally, the financial pressures eased a bit. After four long years without one, we could take a vacation.

We would leave Richmond, connect in Dallas-Ft. Worth, and fly into Albuquerque. Beautiful Santa Fe, here we come.

I cannot tell you how excited, relieved, and almost giddy with happiness we were as we settled into our seats that morning and climbed to cruising altitude. It was a gorgeous morning; I had a window seat, I remember, and the sun was streaming in. We had breakfast, and I was doing the crossword puzzle when everything changed. Just like that.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. Due to the attack on the Pentagon, the FAA has temporarily closed all air space. We are to put down at the nearest available airport. It looks like we’ll be landing in Little Rock shortly.”

What?? What attack on the Pentagon? And so what if there was? Some nut with a gun opens fire in a parking lot and they close down airspace? What if we miss our connection? This is going to ruin our trip! Little Rock??

We circled over Little Rock for about 45 minutes before being allowed to land. No sooner did we hit the tarmac then passengers started frantically calling home. And that’s when we heard that the attack on the Pentagon was not all that had happened; news of the unfathomable was being spread from seat to seat by increasingly agitated passengers.

“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course the Towers didn’t come down. Good God.” I remember these words as if I said them yesterday. It was preposterous to hear such a thing; clearly any sane person would know that this was just not within the realm of possibility.

What in God’s name had happened as we, oblivious to the horror, had flown blissfully along towards our destinations?

Maybe within a half hour of landing the captain came on the air again and told us to gather our belongings and disembark. At the gate, holding rifles, stood some National Guard, directing us down to baggage claim.  I saw a TV on the wall and headed to it.

“Ma’am! Get back in the line. Now!”  Whoa, what is happening here? You better believe I got back in that line and pronto.

As we walked, subdued and dazed, we saw the restaurant TVs with the terrible footage. We all just stood there, in stunned little pods, craning our necks, trying desperately to absorb what had just happened to our world.

It began to sink in that night in the hotel as we watched the news reports, over and over. While we were 30,000 feet in the air having our breakfast and working the crossword puzzle, other people, just like us but for their doomed choice of airplane, had lost their lives. We couldn’t help feeling, warranted or not, that we had somehow dodged a bullet.


Memorial to the victims of September 11 on the grounds of Princeton University.

Perspective can hit with a sucker punch and that day it walloped me big-time. Happy because I was going on vacation? How about being happy because I’m alive? Just to be breathing in and out is an indescribable marvel, a miracle, really. Add to it a person to love and we’re rich as Croesus, aren’t we?

We remember September 11 and its impact on our lives each in our own way, I guess. I’m not saying I had an epiphany that day; that wouldn’t be honest. I had a shock which sent me down the road towards a permanent attitude adjustment, no doubt. I worry it might be offensive to you, dear reader, that I even attempt to describe what happened to us, as insignificant as it was, on the anniversary of 9/11. I know our experiences that day were nothing, nothing at all, compared to what happened to so many others but somehow want to tell the story anyway. I hope you understand.

I am forever grateful for a detour to Little Rock.



About Silver in the Barn

Life in a 1915 farmhouse in Central Virginia. Blogging about whatever happens to catch my fancy - sometimes nonsense, occasionally not.
This entry was posted in Random Ruminations and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

59 Responses to Detour to Little Rock

  1. mckinneyjodi says:

    Oh Barbara – – – I have goosebumps on my entire body. Your story is told so eloquently and poignantly. I am so touched. I can only imagine how you must have felt. I think that day is one of those days we will all remember exactly where we were, what we were doing, and how insignificant it was in comparison to what was happening in the world. And I hope, in the very least, the remembrance and honoring of that day causes us to pause and reflect on the important things. I’m so glad you shared your story. I always look forward to your blog posts.


    • Can’t thank you enough, Jodi, for saying this. I have been torturing myself on whether to post this or not….almost deleted it entirely….such a tiny little moment on a day filled with such tragedy. Each and every one of us will remember, no doubt, exactly where we were when it happened. And pausing to reflect on what’s important, as you say, is what we need to do every day. Thanks so much!!!!


  2. I only read one post tonight … yours … and it hit me. Yes, perspective. I lost someone so dearly loved many years ago. The crises (what crises?) in the office could never faze after that. This particular date is forever etched in our memories.


  3. Thom Hickey says:

    Thanks. It is the human, personal perspective that makes such epic historic events approachable if not always comprehensible. Glad you told your story – it will be part of the mosaic history is made of. Regards Thom.


  4. Often the only way we can make sense of or gain some perspective of a terrible event is to somehow link it to our own experiences which you have done so sensitively and eloquently. All the stories are important however they are connected because they are the collective memories that help us never to forget. Thanks, Barbara.


  5. Dianna says:

    Oh, my. I can’t imagine being in that situation. It was difficult for us to comprehend, and we were seeing it on tv within a few minutes of it happening. Thank you for sharing how the events of that day changed your way of thinking; I believe it did that for many of us no matter where we were that day.


    • I saw a documentary, Dianna, about the people who were flying over the Atlantic about to land in the US when airspace closed and were subsequently diverted to Canada for landing. They experienced much the same thing we did….a period where it was impossible to process all that had happened.


  6. Diane Ahlberg says:

    Every year as I watch the memorials it just doesn’t get any easier to comprehend what souls that lost their lives must have gone through and how it changed their families and friends forever, and also me. May they all rest in peace and may we never have to endure this horrific act to our country again. Bless them all and Bless America!


  7. Barbara, Thank you for this post. Every September 11th I wake up with two conflicting feelings. And I imagine my daughter has it even worse. Today is my daughter’s 23rd birthday. She was 10 years old and in 5th grade the day the World Trade Center Towers were attacked. Living in New Jersey, it was just like being there. People pulled their children out of school, the whole place just stood still in horror. I myself, was headed to an exercise class at about 8:45 when information about the first plane came over my car radio. By the time class had started, rumor of the second plane spread and I grabbed my things and went straight home, called my husband, and sat in front of the TV folding laundry, watching the radar tracking of planes still in the air, tears streaming down my cheeks. I eventually went out to try to get a cake for my daughter (her family party had been the weekend before)–I wanted to try to find a way to celebrate what is the best day for a 10 year old.
    And so every year, I call, text, email, send an Instagram post and a box full of presents to Caroline, who now lives & works in DC. And I listen to the New York radio station as they cover the ceremony at ground zero, and try not to cry–after all, it’s supposed to be a happy day…
    Cindy wow, that was hard…


    • Cindy, thank you so much for sharing this story with us. One of my other readers describes the similar mixed emotions at her daughter having a birthday on a day that is so etched into our consciousnesses as a day of tragedy and mourning. But in a way, it is a great example of exactly what life is: a combination of great sorrow and joy. Again, thank you for this moving story of your experiences that day, Cindy.


  8. Sue Mayo says:

    You and I have had many talks about the events of 9/11/2001. 9/11/1967 was the day my Kelly was born on my sisters birthday. That was a very happy day for the Mayo family. Since 9/11/2001 we all celebrate birthdays with mixed emotions. Happy and sad are the only words that I can think of to express my feelings.


    • I know, Sue. “A date which will live in infamy…” I remember that 9/11 was always a happy, special day in your family and it still is. It’s okay to have a somber feeling in the background even while we celebrate life’s joyous moments. I think.


  9. Last year at this time, I was teaching Freshman English at a four year University. Every year, I would ask students what they remembered about 9/11. Last year, more than half of them didn’t remember, and some didn’t even know.
    I had a slightly older student as well–only 4 years or so their senior–who had just been discharged from the Army, with, I think two tours in Afghanistan. During the most recent, he had watched a number of brothers-in-arms die in front of him. That same attack had taken the vision in one of his eyes (something you wouldn’t know by looking at him) and lodged shrapnel in his leg. This student had only been in 5th grade when the towers fell. He got up and left during the discussion, unable to deal with the fact that so many didn’t know what had happened, why he had sacrificed so much…
    More than even the events of that day–I was in high school, and I remember the shock, and the long gas lines, and the climate of disbelief–I will never forget that discussion or that student.
    For the rest of my life, I will think about him on this day.


    • This just infuriates me. What lazy citizens we are. How is it even possible that any young person sitting in a university classroom wouldn’t know about 9/11? And it brings tears to my eye that this brave soldier sacrificed so much for what must have seemed to him no reason at all. I will hang onto the fact that YOU, as a professor, brought the subject up in the first place. We owe it to ourselves and those that died on that day to never forget. Keep on fighting the good fight, girl.


      • They knew the name; they were somewhat fuzzy on the specifics. Most of these students were in first grade when the attack took place. Their parents shielded them then. After that, all I can suppose is that we assumed knowledge of it; it wasn’t being taught as history yet.


      • Well, I’m not a big fan, to tell you the truth, about shielding young people indefinitely about these things. I think kids are infinitely more resilient than we give them credit for and we have too many “bubble” kids, over-protected. I like how Mr. Rogers (how I adored him) explained that we should tell the children to look for the “helpers” in a tragedy. The EMTs and other first-responders. He had such a great way of talking to kids about tough things, didn’t he? And, again, I’m so glad you are teaching it.


  10. Sandra says:

    Beautifully written, and eloquently conveyed, Barbara. These sentiments must have passed through many people’s minds on that day. I was working in a huge office, doing a job I hated in an environment that was less than satisfactory with people I didn’t much like.. It was just after lunch, the time when people were settling back into the routine in front of their computer screens., Suddenly, heads started popping up all over the work area, low muttering, gasps of astonishment, and eventually all work ceased as I we stood in little groups, some of us crying. I’ll never forget that day. We all left work on time and went home to continue watching the horror unfold and I never complained about that job again. Thank you for a dignified reminder.


    • It is human nature, I guess, to get bogged down with life’s difficulties – and there are many – and to allow that to distract us from the very miracle that we got to wake up in the morning. Not that we can be skipping around deliriously happy every day (that would be unbearable, wouldn’t it?) but at a minimum, we can take the time for a readjustment on memorial days such as this one. Your description of how news reached those of you on the other side of the pond is incredibly vivid and moving.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sue Mayo says:

    You are right Barb. I always have a belly laugh thinking about the way you and Roger made your way across country to NM in the mini-van. That’s a blog for another day.


  12. kristieinbc says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. I still find it hard to think, really think, about that day.


  13. dorothy says:

    I remember wondering where else tragedy might strike that day and crying for all the lives lost in our nation..lives taken from our midst by savages who have no regard for human beings regardless of race, color or creed. I also remember wondering where you and Roger were at that point heading to your vacation spot. Thank heavens you were safe. Every person, children included, should know the ramifications of this horrific time in our nation and how our future has been defined by this day. Thank you for sharing your experience. GOD BLESS AMERICA AND THOSE WHO FIGHT FOR IT.


    • Ah yes, there was that element to it which I’ve forgotten…the waiting for might come next. We were all on pins and needles for what seemed forever; and still to some degree. One of my vivid memories when we got home were the flags…..everywhere. Our future definitely defined, as you say.


  14. Pat S. says:

    Barb…expressed so eloquently, as usual. We do need to constantly put things in perspective. Your post will also transport everyone who reads it back to that fateful day. I paused briefly upon hearing the news from an aide, then carried on as normally as possible with twenty-four pairs of kindergarten eyes trained on my face; this, with a daughter in NYC and another in our nation’s Capitol. My loved ones were safe. Many weren’t. I count my blessings.


    • Thanks for this glimpse into what it was like for the school teachers. Of course you had to maintain some sense of normalcy and order for the wee ones and in the background wonder what was happening to your daughters. This before we could quickly text each other that we were safe and sound.


  15. Thank you for adding an image of the Princeton Memorial, Barbara. Few are aware of it. Thanks, also, for sharing your thoughtful remembrances. Events of that day still haunt me in very personal ways.


    • Eric, on the way to visit my oldest friend in Pennington, we visited Princeton to see the art museum. And then we walked the grounds where I saw the memorial. It is such a quiet and serene remembrance nestled in among those grand buildings and trees. And I extend my sympathies for whatever loss you may have sustained on that awful day.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. nrhatch says:

    I loved how you shared this experience, Barbara. Until the Captain came on the P.A. system, I had no idea that your vacation coincided with 9/11. From that point in your narrative to the end, my perspective shifted to what it would be like to have been in the air that day and how scary it would be to be escorted from the plane by the National Guard.

    We were home. Watching the images on TV ~ surreal. I echoed what you said:

    “Don’t be ridiculous. Of course the Towers didn’t come down. Good God.” I remember these words as if I said them yesterday. It was preposterous to hear such a thing; clearly any sane person would know that this was just not within the realm of possibility.


    • Nancy, one of the lessons I learned that day is that big, terrible things come without warning. The universe tilts in a second. It is such a lesson to us all about worrying as you have discussed many times in your blog. Another friend of mine says we are always on thin ice and she’s absolutely right. Of course we can’t walk around in terror all day; just the opposite, in fact, but always, always keeping in mind that the unthinkable can happen.


  17. dorannrule says:

    Barbara, your story did transport me back to that fateful day just as Pat S. said. I was home when my friend in Phoenix called to tell me to turn on the t.v. I was then frantic and ran to the fields to alert Bill (who was out on his tractor). He could not hear me for the noise of the machine but i finally got his attention with a lot of wild waving. From then on, it was our own shock and awe along with the rest of the world. The reminders on this anniversary day of that horrible event make me thankful, just as you say, for being alive and for the good things we find on our life journeys.


    • What I find notable about your comment is that you couldn’t possibly sit in the house alone and watch TV while waiting for Bill to finish whatever he was doing. You had to be together even if it meant you ran in front of his tractor. Everybody immediately connected with their loved ones and rode through it together. We were so far away from everybody, stuck in the middle of the country exactly half-way between New Mexico and Virginia that we bonded with the strangers in the hotels and on the road along the way. So many people had no idea how they were going to get home and desperately wanted to.


  18. Parnassus says:

    Hello Barbara, Normally, our lives are characterized by continuity, but there are epochal events that separate the world that will be from the one that was. This can be a cataclysmal event like 9/11, or a personal loss such as the passing of a relative. The lesson is to do as much as possible in the world we’re in, before it is irrevocably gone or altered.

    Your essay here is very meaningful. Every post you have written testifies to how the person you describe at the beginning is gone forever, replaced by one who regularly takes joy in and contributes to the world.


    • Dear, dear Jim. I was choking up while reading your first paragraph, which so vividly and perfectly gets at the very heart of my post, and then completely undone by your second. If I could get into my imaginary personal transporter machine, I would zap myself over the Pacific and give you a giant hug!


  19. joannesisco says:

    Every story about THAT DAY is part of the fabric that defines the event. It is as real and tangible as if it happened only last year … never mind over a dozen years ago.
    Your story is just as compelling as any other. I can’t imagine the confusion, disappointment, shock, numbness, gratitude, etc, etc, etc that went through your life in the minutes, hours, and days that followed.
    Thank you for sharing your story. It provided a perspective we all need to be reminded about occasionally .. and especially on a significant anniversary like 9/11.


  20. The news videos that morning were incomprehensible. I was still working at “Florida Today.” My husband was the first to get a call to come in to work early. We turned on the TV and then we saw the 2nd plane hit The Twin Towers.

    I recall the time after this as one in which everyone was so kind to everyone else. It’s like we bonded and became stronger. We lost many people as a result, people who sacrificed their lives to help rescue others. But the enemy did not win.


    • Incomprehensible, indeed. Judy, you bring up something else I’ve forgotten: how kind everyone was to one another. I have a dear friend who lives in Manhattan and so, of course, had a much higher chance of knowing, either directly or indirectly, victims. She told me that for many days afterwards, things happened like a store clerk taking her hand and asking “And your family?” It’s reassuring to know we’ve got each other’s back….ultimately.


  21. bkpyett says:

    Barbara, reading your post I got goose pimples! You are meant to be here to write such strong thoughts! It brought back my own unbelieving memories of that day, and I was in Australia!!


  22. Sheryl says:

    This post is beautifully written, and conveys wonderfully how it affected your personal perspective..


  23. A beautiful piece of writing, Barbara. Thank you.


  24. markbialczak says:

    What a thought to be struck by, Barbara, that others on a plane did not get the chance to make an emergency landing. Awful day for all. Stories about for those of us more fortunate than the victims. Your tale is well told, my friend.


  25. As a few other people already mentioned, it’s the mosaic of individual experiences touched by a larger event that gives it definition and meaning. In my case, 9/11 was the day before my daughter’s 16th birthday. We decided to go ahead with the party anyways and the young people probably enjoyed having a relief from the continuing news coverage. I remember the mood in the streets (we were in the suburbs of DC) and I thought that I could feel the depression and heaviness of the times in the air. It was a strange time.
    We also have distant relatives who lived on the same street in NY and had to evacuate their apartment for months because all the toxic dust made those places unliveable. So many lives touched in so many different ways…but what it had in common was that our sense of safety and security was shaken up – forever. Now to add to that is the info that’s been spread by architects and engineers (have you seen the DVD?) who claim that 9/11 was an inside job. So much disturbing evidence that it’s difficult to pass it off as a “conspiracy theory.” On top of the human tragedy of the time, we now also have to wonder what government is capable of….by any means necessary?


    • Hello Annette, You remind me of that other aspect of the tragedy I’d completely forgotten: all those displaced people in NYC. Living in DC, you felt the presence of a threat more than most others. I had a client at the time who from his condo watched the smoke coming up from the Pentagon. He was a former military man moving down to Richmond and he got so choked up in my car telling me about it, that I will never forget it.


  26. Joanne Butler says:

    As I write this, a few days after 9/11, I am still in awe of so many of the moving comments left by your followers. I have read them all, but there are ones that touched me and will remain in my memory of 9/11. The words written by AlmostFarmGirl angered me also. How is it that grown children of college age have no knowledge of that catastrophic day? What is so gravely wrong with our society that any grown American would not be able to discuss a day that changed our lives forever. Not yet in a history book….? Such a poor reason to keep our children from learning how this day affected us and their futures.
    Your story moved me as well Barb. We should consider ourselves fortunate to read how the events of that day affected those who were in the air at that time. How stunned all of you must been to watch the monitors, a feeling of disbelief, and in a location so many miles from the security of your own home. I remember not wanting to leave the confines of my house, afraid that somehow, some horrific act would find its way into my world. And as fortunate as we are to still be here to talk or write about 9/11, we should in no way feel that our experience was not worth telling. With fear in our hearts and compassion for those so deeply affected, we too had our own cross to bear.
    One more note…… A few days after 9/11, I was in the car with my mother and a new song came across the radio written by Lee Greenwood “God Bless the USA”. As this tear-jerker played, my mother said to me, “Why does it take an event like this to make us realize how vulnerable we all are, but so fortunate to be citizen of this great country.” Coming from an Italian family that immigrated to this country, she knew felt how precious her parent’s citizenship was to them. And then she looked up to the grey skies we experienced that day and spoke these words, “Look Joanne, the sky is mourning……..” I will have that memory with me always. She passed a few months later, a few days before Christmas. Needless to say, 2011 was a year of sad remembrances.
    Never doubt your subject matter Barb!. Your ability to write stories that touch us so profoundly should be ours to read, always……
    Love, Joanne


    • Hello, Joanne. Wow, what an amazing comment. Thank you so much for sharing your memories of that terrible day in such a moving fashion. Especially, I am thinking of your mother who absolutely knew how lucky we all are to be Americans and didn’t take it for granted. That’s where the great danger lies to us all; taking it all as our god-given right – this access to freedom, education, liberty, choice, well, I could go on and on. And if the children aren’t being taught how lucky they are to be citizens of this country, then we really are in trouble.

      And, by the way, you should be writing your own blog in between everything else. Beautifully expressed, Joanne. Love, Barbara


      • Joanne Butler says:

        Oh Barb, how unexpected your last paragraph was!!! I am indeed flattered, to say the least, by you suggesting I write my own blog. Thank you for such a huge compliment, you certainly made my day!..But I think I will leave the blogging to those who know how to write about the best of days along with the worst of days, and keep readers anticipating the next chapter. Someone like you!!!!! As always, looking forward to your delightful, compelling and thought-provoking posts!!!!!! Love, J


  27. Jane says:

    Barbara, your writers voice in this piece is perfect! What a great perspective to share and you did it so well! Thanks for sharing! Janiecam!


I welcome your comments:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s