THAT is how far away I was from my 14 year old daughter we had left at boarding school just 2 days earlier in Tyrone, PA on September 11, 2001! It had already been a challenging weekend, having left our only child at a boarding school nestled in the mountains of Pennsylvania just east of Pittsburgh. We lived in Western Kentucky at the time and it was approximately 800 miles away. My step dad had been put in the hospital the week before for some tests and the results came back as we were making the drive to PA on the Friday after Labor Day weekend. He had terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and it had metastasized into fluid around his heart and brain. We kept this information from our daughter because we were trying to get her settled at this wonderful prestigious school for a once in a lifetime experience.
The Grier Boarding School for girls had been established about 120 years prior to that fateful day. There were girls attending there from all over the world and the daughters of some very influential people from New York and Washington D.C. It was a small miracle our daughter was accepted into the school and that we could afford the tuition at the time. Even though it was something we all wanted, including her, the timing couldn’t have been worse….
We had left her on Sunday Sept 9, to drive back to Kentucky. Monday was her first day of school and Tuesday the news of 9-11 hit the world like a punch in the gut. My husband had taken our dog for a walk and had not taken his cell phone with him. I was sitting at home watching the news and ran outside to find him when the second plane hit. I just knew we were in the midst of an honest to God military attack… it was an invasion and the US was going to war with SOMEONE! I was scared out of my mind because our daughter was less than 200 miles away from NYC and Washington D.C. It took us over an hour to reach the school. When we did get to talk to her, she was upset but doing OK and that put my mind at ease to some degree. Unfortunately, there were girls whose parents were unreachable for up to 12 hours because they lived or worked in the NYC and DC areas. What a frightening thing. I don’t believe any of them lost immediate family, but they did lose family friends and other people they knew. The world was in turmoil for them.
To make matters worse, there was no easy way to get back to PA because there were no flights. We were trying to figure out what to do when the tragedy was compounded the next night. One of the teachers, who had been at that school for 20 years, decided the world was coming to an end and chose that night to take her own life within 100 yards of my daughter’s dorm. That was the last straw… she called us absolutely hysterical! So on Thursday, we were back on the road making the 12 hour drive to Tyrone to get her and bring her home. She stayed home with us for a week. Our daughter wanted to try and go back to school so we put her on a plane (believe it or not) and sent her back to school. However, by then she had learned about her grandfather’s illness and it was just too much to endure. She did stick it out until the first week of November then came back for good. My regret for her was missing out on such an incredible opportunity to experience boarding school and the culture of all the young ladies from Argentina to Russia and a roommate from Mexico. But she did get to take a few trips while there and meet some cool girls. Some things are just not meant to be. I believe in my heart, had she been there under normal circumstances, she would have had an awesome experience.
I do wish the events of 9-11 hadn’t happened, but it is the world in which we live in today. I have a profound love and respect for first responders. I have always had a special place in my heart for military too because of the close ties of friends and family. But it goes deeper now and I want to hug each and every military personnel I see in uniform. If it wasn’t for their sacrifice we wouldn’t live in a country with our freedoms…. Thank you!