Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Remembering: Boys, blocks & 9/11 September 9, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:09 AM
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THROUGHOUT THIS WEEK I’ve contemplated the post I would write about 9/11. And not once have I deviated from my initial idea.

So yesterday I headed to the basement and started digging through totes in search of building blocks and toy airplanes. I found the blocks, but not the planes. Those I discovered later while rummaging through my son’s upstairs bedroom closet.

Ten years ago, on September 11, 2001, my boy was only seven years old. He was home from school that day, not feeling well, when my husband phoned with news of the first plane crashing into the first tower.

I switched on the television. Typically I don’t have the TV on during the day and would not have known about the terrorist attacks until much later.

From that moment on, I could not take my eyes off the screen even though I worried about exposing my son and a younger boy in my care that day to the news coverage. How would they react? And did they truly understand the gravity of what was unfolding in our country?

I attempted to explain the situation, to tell the boys this was “real” and not some television show. They continued playing with whatever toys they had out at the time—I can’t recall.

But clearly they were listening and watching, for soon the two pulled a box of wooden building blocks from the toy box. Then they pulled out the toy airplanes.

I watched as my 7-year-old and his friend constructed teetering towers, then smashed those miniature planes into the towers. Blocks tumbled across the living room carpet.

I reconstructed a tower using the same blocks my son and his friend used on September 11, 2001, to duplicate what they saw on television. These are also the same airplanes they flew into the towers.

They repeated the action: Build the towers. Fly the planes. Smash the towers. Build. Fly. Smash.

I could have cried over the loss of innocence—mine and theirs.

WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL memories of September 11, 2001? Please submit a comment and share your story.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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6 Responses to “Remembering: Boys, blocks & 9/11”

  1. Amy Says:

    I remember it happening, but not truly understanding what it meant. I was just beginning my sophomore year of high school and wasn’t really involved in the political realm or the importance of world business (today, I still don’t know what happened on a day to day basis in the WTC). So I didn’t really understand why it was so important when our principal came into the room saying someone had called into school sick and that we were being bombed in New York City. The radios went on and the teachers all became worried. Since I attended a small Lutheran high school and this was only its second year running, there were only about 20 students. We all went over to the parsonage across the yard and sat in the pastor’s living room watching the TV and watched the second tower fall. I am certain we were all scared and confused and worried because the rest of the day was fairly silent…

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      It’s interesting that, even as a high school sophomore, you didn’t really grasp the depth and impact of what was happening in New York and D.C.

      I watched an NBC news special last night about 9/11 and went through nearly a half dozen tissues crying. Seeing those images again brought the entire day back for me…

  2. Kristin Says:

    I remember watching the Today show and hearing a report of the first plane (thinking it must have been small, an errant biplane), hearing of the second on my way to a meeting, and the Pentagon. Cellphones clattering across the conference table as people called to tell us that the first tower had fallen. I couldn’t get back to my office. I couldn’t find my roommate (who worked in the city). Public radio was filled with claims of bombs and smoke throughout the city.

    I remember my dad telling me of a plane that broke the sound barrier as it raced from Wright Patterson AFB, producing a sonic boom.

    I remember the gas station attendant telling me he’d been ordered by police to provide full service to keep traffic flowing. And my panicking neighbor packing his car – he’d been working at the Pentagon. And driving to my sister’s house with a quiet sky by Dulles airport, wondering at the very stillness of it all and what would come next.

    I remember watching the news with my toddler nephew and infant niece, with my sister and the unborn baby in her stomach. My nephew couldn’t understand why the “bad man” wanted to hurt anyone. We had to turn the TV off.

    I remember coming back to DC for an impromptu vigil. Working the Pentagon hotline. Seeing officers with guns and humvees on every corner for weeks to come. A hole in the Pentagon. A flag.

    I remember the kindness of strangers. The politeness that so quickly seeped into every interaction. The way people seemed to generally care for each other.

    I remember.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you, Kristin, for sharing these detailed memories. To have been there, in DC, in the heart of the situation had to be terribly frightening. I cannot imagine. It was bad enough viewing it all on television from faraway Minnesota…

  3. dorothy Says:

    Yes, of course, 9/11 is very much in my mind. How can I forget? We could not reach Craig because all telephones were on special calls only. He or Annemarie could have been in the city that day.

    Jason, brother-in -law of Annemarie, works on Wall Street. He did not get home until the middle of the night. No one knew where he was.

    Having lived where many take public transportation into NY for work, we were very much in fear or all we knew. I really know of only one person who did not make it: an uncle of a friend of Grants.

    Grant and I were in to “ground zero” that Christmas. The smell was still awful and the clean-up was in full force. We could not get very close But did see trucks removing a lot of stuff and workers were wearing masks. Not a pleasant time.

    On the day of the disaster Robin happened to turn on the TV before we got up and we saw the first tower in flames and watched as the second plane hit the second tower. Now to drive down the Parkway in New Jersey the sky line is bare where the towers were. Thank God the Statue of Liberty is still towering over the skyline. A sight unmatched.

    Am spending the anniversary of 9/ll by watching a couple of things on TV but mostly praying God protects this country from more disasters.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective from that of a former New Jersey resident with family (Craig and Annemarie) and friends in the New York City area.


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