High School Alumni Site
Sarah's Column about 9-11-01
Zipping up my light fleece jacket, I opened the
door and stepped out into the cool crisp morning air. Took a deep
breath and waited for my husband to follow me down the flower
laden path. Our legs brushed past unruly stands of purple cone
flowers, so heavy they drooped in our way, thick clumps of
lavender and tall lanky sunflowers did the same. Hummingbirds and
butterflies fluttered nearby.
We swung open the big coyote gate and stepped onto the path
leading through a dense thicket of scrub oak trees where we
meandered through a green tunnel of leaves until we reached the
tall wooden gate to the big flower garden. I reached up for the
latch and greeted a fellow guest at Blue Lake Ranch. She and her
little girl had been our companions at breakfast the previous
morning. I gave her an enthusiastic, "Good Morning!"
She instantly replied, with a look of horror spreading across her
face, "Good Morning? It's NOT a good morning; don't you know
what has happened? We've been watching the television up at the
main house and New York has been attacked! Two planes have
crashed into the World Trade Center! A plane has crashed into the
Pentagon and there is still one up in the air! WHAT ARE WE GOING
She said all of this, clutching her little blond headed cherub to
her breast, choking back sobs of disbelief.
We were stunned, utterly speechless and unable to comprehend what she had said as we stumbled along through the beautiful, yet slightly tattered end-of-the-season flowerbeds. Just the day before, we'd admired the unbelievable view of the San Juan Mountains from this garden path and vowed to sit for awhile in the old-fashioned bright blue wooden lawn chairs.
We never made it to the chairs…instead we huddled together with fellow guests; all of us, far from home, worried about loved ones, scared for our country and feeling lost like everyone else all over this great land.
What could we do? What should we do? Should we set out
immediately for home? Would we be foolish to stay, would there be
gas if we left? What would we encounter? News reports were just
beginning and we felt compelled to stay…to watch and listen
like everyone else.
Our day was spent like all other Americans, riveted in abject
terror to the scene unfolding live before our eyes on the
television…interspersed with phone calls to family.
We decided for the moment at least, we should stay. Later that
day, we took a trip into town, to get away from that horrible
image, the planes crashing over and over again into the twin
Town was filled with tourists, all feeling all of the same
feelings we felt. Their faces, like ours, bore a reflection of
the bad news we'd all been slapped in the face with earlier in
the day. Unlike so many, we fortunately were just one state away
People gathered in quiet desperation around television sets in
public places to hear the latest… quickly learning there
would be no airplanes home for many of them.
We overheard worried conversations in Japanese and
German…far from the safety of familiar surroundings, caught
in a foreign land under siege from a horrific enemy.
We headed for a mountain trail at the edge of town, seeking the
peace and cathedral like feeling of the deep forest, needing the
comfort of nature. We hiked deep into the woods…taking
solace from the peaceful landscape.
Worn out from our roller coaster emotions and physical exertion
we returned to the ranch; cleaned up for dinner and made our way
up the road to a small family restaurant.
What had been a bustling atmosphere every other evening with
laughter filling the air was instead, quiet and reflective. The
setting sun outside the northwest window cast an ethereal glow on
the mountains looming over the valley floor. I didn't run for the
camera as I might have the day before.
Was it wrong to sit so casually…waiting for an evening meal, when thousands of Americans lost their lives that very morning? How many times have you asked yourself a similar question the past few days?
We sat in silence, then noticed a couple walk in the door. They looked distraught, still unnerved from the morning news. They were fellow guests, caught up in the tragedy. Their daughter, a reporter for the Denver Post was in New York City…close by the World Trade Center when disaster struck. She phoned her father on her cell phone to tell him she was safe…he begged her to "GET AWAY FROM THERE!" She replied, "Daddy…I'm a reporter…this is what I do!" and stayed to cover the story.
Don and Betty, whom we might never have met without disaster
striking, were there to plan a wedding for next Memorial Day at
the ranch. It is to be a wedding celebration for their
We invited Don and Betty to sit down with us…to share our table, share their story and grieve with us over the unthinkable act that had occurred.
They needed to talk, we needed to listen…we all needed
someone. We went on with life…
Talk continued in the sunroom at the ranch the next morning. Breakfasts were picked at on full plates as guests shared their disbelief, dismay and troubled feelings. A trio from Canada sat nearby. They left to meet a plane I'm sure they were unable to board. Another guest was a professor from nearby Farmington, NM who entered the conversation about whether or not we should continue our trip.
"Go on! He said, "They" want you to give up and
quit…to fear for your lives." He encouraged us to
continue our journey.
So after much waffling back and forth, we packed up and went on…though the beautiful, sometimes desolate, empty countryside, snaking our way through southwest Colorado, down into New Mexico, the Carson National Forest, the Jicarilla Apache Reservation, on to Chama. We passed the turnoff to the National Laboratory at Los Alamos, military jets flying overhead, on to our destination, Santa Fe…it was nearly deserted.
We've been there many times to enjoy the early fall weather but
we'd never seen the streets so empty. Only eight guests checked
into our hotel the day we arrived. Most who were there were
caught, unable to fly home, many from foreign countries.
We walked ghostly, vacant streets, normally a hubbub of happy
activity. Communed with strangers, fellow travelers and shop
keepers, all with time on their hands watching televisions
instead of doing business, listening and watching trying to grasp
the meaning of what had just occurred, pondering the days to
We toured the Institute of American Indian Art where they were
featuring the first Indian artists who gathered there to study.
They were drawn from around the nation, most fresh off
reservations; youth caught up in the drama of the sixties: the
Viet Nam War and social ills of that time along with the deep
chasm that separated Native American youth from the rest of their
Their world changed then as our world is changing now. Many of
them lost their lives in the Viet Nam war and those that came
home found a nation divided.
Unlike that time, our current tragedy seems to have united our
country like never before.
On Saturday morning we came back to Kansas. Home from a most unusual trip, I won't call it a vacation…it was a journey with a most unexpected turn. Expectations of "vacations" often never meet reality. This was one we will never forget.
We must and like the rest of America…we will go on. On with
our American way of life. God Bless America!
Bless the families who suffer and all those, who lost their lives in this tragedy.
"Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of
grain"…we who live under the huge mid-western sky,
literally amidst those fields of amber waves, all look forward to
the day our "spacious skies" are safe to all of us
We're a strong nation united with a common cause…proud we
live in the land of freedom…The United States of America.
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