I’ll never forget the day when my worlds collided in an instant.
Sept. 11, 2001.
One moment, I was basking in the peace and solitude of the outdoors, with not a care in the world. The next moment, I was jolted into the reality that no American ever thought possible – our country was under attack.
That was the day terrorists hijacked American airliners and carried out suicide missions, flying them into the World Trade Center twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Thousands were killed that day, buildings laid in ruins, panic ensued…and a giant was awakened.
For me, that scene was unimaginable as I joined my neighbor, John Wilson, for a day of teal hunting at his lease in west-central Missouri. It was a brilliant morning, one of those days that made a hunter just happy to be alive.
Before the sun even made its arrival, lines of teal swept over the marsh in front of us, promising an exciting day of hunting.
I remember John’s black lab whimpering in anticipation and glancing at us as if to say, “Why aren’t you shooting?” He obviously didn’t know anything about shooting hours.
When the time finally arrived, many of those teal we had seen evaporated as they often do on these September mornings. It was almost as if the early birds had teased us, knowing that they were safe from our gunfire.
But as the darkness slowly gave way to daylight, there were still enough of the rapid bluewings around to provide plenty of opportunities. It was one of those textbook days when everything went as planned.
John hit some difficult shots, his dog made some memorable retrieves, I got some good photos, and everything was right in the world.
After the teal stopped flying, we just sat in the duck boat for a few minutes, taking in the beauty of another duck season getting off to a great start.
But in an instant, that serenity was shattered. As we motored back to John’s boathouse, we saw John ‘s father-in-law nervously pacing on the levee, and we immediately know something was wrong.
Our minds raced. Had something happened to one of our family members? A car crash maybe? A fire?
When we drew close, John yelled out, “What’s wrong?”
And his father-in-law answered, “We’re under attack.”
Surely, we had heard wrong, we thought. Under attack? From what or who?
When we pulled the boat in, he proceeded to explain about the terror everyone watched unfold on television that morning. He told of the jetliners flying into the New York buildings, of the devastation and the mass fatalities. And suddenly, the solitude of the outdoors and that waterfowl marsh disappeared.
At that moment, uncertainty filled the air. Were those attacks only the start? Were terrorists going to invade other major cities? Were our loved ones safe?
John and I scrambled to call home, and once we determined everyone was OK, we headed home, listening to radio reports as we went.
We passed convenience stores where long lines of vehicles waited at the gas pumps. And the closer we got to our Kansas City airport, we noticed that the sky was eerily silent – no planes coming or going.
Like everyone else, we were fearful of what this meant. And more than once, we talked about the contrast in our day’s activities.
We also talked about our patriotism and our grave concerns for our country. In the next few days, we would realize just how unifying that day would be for our country.
Luckily, our worst fears never materialized. But to this day, 9/11 will be remembered as a landmark moment for the USA.
When people ask the question, “Do you remember where you were on 9/11?” I think to myself, “I was a world away – in a waterfowl marsh.”