I’ll never forget that September day

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 10, 2002

One year ago today, I had to get up and be virtually in the woods for my first Leadership Shelby County meeting.

I was so nervous. I didn’t know any of the other 29 people in my class. I didn’t know what to expect.

When I arrived in the parking lot at Family Connection, I sat in my car until three minutes before I had to be in the building.

I think it was about 7:45 a.m. That was 8:45 a.m. Eastern time &045; just about the same time a plane hit Tower One of the World Trade Center in New York City.

When you arrive for your first day at Leadership Shelby County, they send you out right away to the Ropes Course at Family Connection.

So we were out there &045; hanging from the trees and other things &045; until they gave us a break about 10:30 a.m. They called us into a large room and broke the news to us.

First, there was disbelief. Then, absolute and total fear. We were under attack. Our country was under attack. I was petrified.

I rushed through the door and called my mom. She works in a government building, and I really thought all people who worked in government buildings should just go home. In fact, as far as I was concerned, everyone everywhere should have just gone home where it was safe.

My mom was fine, of course. And my daddy, also. She also said she’d talked to my brother and my grandparents. Everyone was fine. That was a relief &045; now on to the next worry.

As a person who makes her living on the news, I knew I should be back at the newspaper, but I couldn’t. I have great people working with me, so they did a wonderful job in a horribly tough situation.

I was able to talk to them for a few minutes and determined that everything was OK, so I went back to the Ropes Course along with the rest of my now-subdued class.

We traveled from Family Connection to the 4-H Center in Wilsonville where, after checking in, we caught our first glimpse of the wreckage that was New York City and Washington, D.C.

The scenes were like something I cannot even describe. Everyone saw them. My Leadership roommate and I sat and cried as we watched those horrified people running from the rubble and covered with a cloud of ash and dust.

This was not one of those &uot;stan&uot; countries. It was not Israel. It was not Iraq or Iran. This was my country &045; right here in the United States. It’s hard to tell where the sadness ended and the absolute fury began.

We finished our two-day stint at Leadership and finally were able to go home.

By that time, however, I had 29 new friends. We had gone through the worst tragedy of our generation together. It’s surely something we will never forget.

I had experienced things with these 29 people that I’ve never experienced before, but more than I’ll remember falling out of the tree backward or jumping rope at the same time as 10 other people, I’ll remember sitting wide-eyed in disbelief as I watched our country under attack.

I worked through my sadness and fury at the situation with new friends and colleagues who felt pretty much the same way I did.

It bound us together as no Ropes Course ever could; as no personality exercise or how-to-be-a-leader exercise ever could.

When we graduated in May, we received T-shirts with the phrase, &uot;We’ll never forget September 11, 2001.&uot;

Because of the circumstances of that day, my Leadership Class came to mean a great deal to me. That statement is correct. I certainly never will forget Sept. 11, 2001