[This piece was posted 8 years ago today.]
September 11, 2001—A Memory
How I taught that 10 AM class I don’t know. I did mention the tragedy to the class, as if they didn’t know already, and we all prayed in class before the lesson started. Then amazingly, I proceeded with the lesson.
As the class progressed, I grew more and more anxious, until the end, when I practically busted out of the room and ran back to my office. “I have to see if Mom is all right!” I yelled to myself, racing down the hallways from T Building. I was also worried about my wife Linda and my 3 daughters. Julia was away at college, Miami University. Carolan was at Chardon High School. Em was at St. Mary’s School, where Linda worked. But Mom was 77 years old, blind, and alone at home in Euclid--Dad four years in the grave. I had to go to her right away!
I ran to the faculty-staff lot and cranked up my car—it was almost empty of gas. A thought streaked across my mind: What if the gas pumps go out? What if gigantic lines form at the gas stations? Are the ATM machines working? As usual I had almost no cash in my wallet.
My first step was to get to the Bank One money machine. The machine worked and I withdrew a hundred dollars, a huge amount for me to carry around. Then I headed to Kirtland Road, the back way to Mom’s. I thought maybe the freeways would get jammed up with cars, people fleeing . . . to somewhere, anywhere. We had no idea what was going on yet. So far we knew that both towers of the World Trade Center had been hit; by this time one of the buildings had actually collapsed to the ground, something unheard of! There was a story about a jet crashing into a field southeast of Pittsburgh. The Pentagon had been hit. There were rumors galore flying around. One claimed that Dayton had been hit. My oldest daughter Julia was a freshman at Miami University, not far from Dayton. What was going on? Are we all in danger?
Down Kirtland Road I drove like a maniac, coming to Rt. 20 in Willoughby. West on 20 to Vine Street. Down Vine to Lakeshore Boulevard. There near the corner of Lakeshore and Vine was a gas station without big lines. I pulled in and filled my tank. Would this be my last chance to get gas?
I zipped out on Vine, then left on Lakeshore down to Lloyd. Down Lloyd to Forestview. Then to E. 272, then Farringdon, then E.266 and into Mom’s driveway. I pushed open my car door, one knock on Mom's door, then inside.
There Mom calmly sat on the davenport, drinking a cup of coffee, smoking a cigarette, and watching the television’s grim news. Mom was OK; I was the one who was frantic, anxious, frightened to death. I hugged her. She comforted me like I was a scared 5-year-old again.
Robert M. Coughlin
September 11, 2008