Numerous posts on Facebook and other social media by friends (virtual and real-life ones) have asked, “What were you doing on 9/11?”
I was prepping to lecture to my Tuesday classes at the University of Kentucky – History of Journalism (JOU 535) and an introductory survey section of HIS 109 – grappling with Reconstruction (which A. Lincoln called the greatest challenge ever presented to practical statesmanship) and the aftermath of the Civil War (stagger your imagination by thinking of the loss 9/11 EVERY Tuesday for four years).
After a brief lecture, I let the students, disturbed and full of emotion (as we all were) talk and ask questions – “Does this mean we are at war?” or “how could this happen?!” – and then dismissed to gather around the TV sets tuned to news broadcasts all over campus. Many of the History of Journalism students (and I) were scheduled to leave the next day for the annual meeting of RTNDA (Radio and Television News Directors’ Association – professional society of the equivalent of “managing editor” bosses in TV newsrooms) which was scheduled for Nashville that year. The convention was cancelled – which did not help any of the NDs who had already assembled there for advance-prep and committee meetings, and had to manage the biggest news story of their careers via cell phones, trapped hundreds of miles from home with flights cancelled, airlines grounded.
That was one of the eeriest things about the day – the absence of air traffic. The only aircraft flying that day were Blackhawks transporting the 101st Airborne from Ft. Campbell to guard the Bluegrass Army Depot (chemical weapons storage) south of Lexington. The other really disturbing matter was the phone conversations with one of our daughters who then worked in one of Atlanta’s a tall buildings. Even routine things were disturbing; trying to eat while watching breaking news on the restaurant TV was appetite-suppressing – even at one of my favorite places near campus (Billy’s Hickory-Pit Bar-B-Q, if you’re ever in Lexington).
Today we live in a Chicago suburb (Naperville) which is on the approaches to both O’Hare and Midway – as well as the flight school at Lewis University and “Clow International Airport” (general aviation) as well as several “flight communities” (homes with attached hangars and access to runways) . The planes overhead, high enough not to be a nuisance, are comforting in a routine sort of way – a subliminal reminder of the freedoms we enjoy of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (or, property, as Jefferson originally wrote). The other day we were buzzed several times by a B-17 on tour – a reminder of Bette’s father, W.C. Ashworth of blessed memory, who was a B-17 pilot in World War 2. Gotta love suburban Chicago.
Random reflections on a somber day by an average guy happy to be living, despite all its imperfections, in the land of the free and the home of the brave. God bless America!