Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Reflecting on 9/11, eleven years later September 11, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:52 AM
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My then 8-year-old son drew this picture of a plane aimed for the twin towers a year after 9/11 for a school religion assignment. He was a third grader in a Christian school at the time and needed to think of a time when it was hard to trust God by drawing a photo illustrating that time. To this day, this drawing by my boy illustrates to me how deeply 9/11 impacted even the youngest among us.

IF I WAS IN MY HOMETOWN today I would visit the cemetery just outside of Vesta, to the north along the gravel road and atop the lone hill which rises ever so slightly in a sea of ripening corn and soybean fields.

I’d walk the rows until I found the gravestones of the Kletschers, mostly clumped together, close still even in death.

I’d pause at the tombstones of my paternal great grandparents and grandparents, my father and then, finally, my Uncle Mike, the bachelor uncle who was like a second father to me and my five siblings. He lived the next farm over, farmed with our father and joined us for everyday meals and holidays. His inherent curiosity is a trait I possess.

Uncle Mike died on September 5, 2011, and was buried just days before 9/11.

Today thousands will visit graves of those who lost their lives on that horrific day 11 years ago when our nation was attacked by terrorists.

My uncle had never, as far as I know, been to New York or Washington D.C. or Pennsylvania, never traveled much. He stuck close to the prairie, close to the farm, close to the land he cherished with the depth of love only a farmer can possess.

I miss him and grieve his death with a depth of grief that comes only from loving someone deeply.

Today, on this the 11th anniversary of 9/11, countless family and friends and co-workers and others will grieve with a depth that comes from loving deeply. They may grieve privately or at public ceremonies marking the date nearly 3,000 innocent individuals lost their lives.

Some will travel to that field in Stonycreek Township in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, where the passengers of Flight 93 fought back against those who would terrorize this nation.

It is the one place I can most relate to in the whole horribleness of this American tragedy because my roots reach deep into the land. Flight 93 crashed in a field near Shanksville, a rural community of 250 in the Laurel Mountains of western Pennsylvania with a population 100 less than my Minnesota hometown.

None of this diminishes the significant impact made upon me by the terrorist-directed planes slamming into the twin towers or the destruction wreaked upon the Pentagon in urban settings.

But big cities—even though I’ve been to New York once in my life many decades ago while in college—are unfamiliar terrain, skyscrapers as foreign to me as a silo to a city-dweller.

A lone plane crashing into a field, plowing into the earth, that I understand.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


13 Responses to “Reflecting on 9/11, eleven years later”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Wow! What a picture! Great post, Audrey.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks, Beth Ann. I think I’ve dug out that drawing by my son every year on the anniversary of 9/11. It just hurts my heart to realize how even an 8-year-old understood and felt so deeply the impact of 9/11.

  2. ljhlaura Says:

    I remember the day well. Powerful post…

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you. My son was actually home sick from school on 9/11 and I was caring for a friend’s son. I didn’t know about the attacks until my husband called from work as I never have the television on during the day. I turned it on and could barely take my eyes from the screen. The boys were playing on the living room floor. And pretty soon they were stacking wooden blocks into two towers and crashing toy airplanes into them. That was a powerful, defining moment for me.

  3. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for young children to even comprehend this tragedy. This was such a moving tribute.. and that drawing.. so touching… xx

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you, Barbara. Sometimes children can show, in a drawing, what we as adults can’t convey in a thousand words.

  4. On 9/11 I sat on our sofa holding our 5 day old baby girl Lucy…and watched the horror unfold. Husband is a pilot and we knew the instant it was reported it was not an accident….planes don’t hit buildings by accident. I was so grateful Eric was home with me and not in a plane at the time…..we sat there non stop for 5 days watching hours and hours of reporting. I remember on the 6th day, we just shut the tv off, for nearly the whole day. We couldn’t watch it or listen any longer….we had to take a break, we left the house for the first time in nearly a week. We sent the older kids off to school, and went out to eat breakfast. We ordered, but when our food came…we weren’t hungry…we couldn’t eat….I never forget that awful feeling of guilt for attempting to “go back to normal” . How could we when so many were suffering, in so many ways.
    Zak 16, and Lucy 11 are my 2 kiddos still home–we watched a couple of the 9-11 specials this past weekend….it’s good to remember. Then remember to live your life to the fullest.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Wow, this had to be especially frightening since your husband is a pilot. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been for your entire family.

  5. Jan Thom Says:

    Just read your article, very touching. Thanks for sharing.

  6. hotlyspiced Says:

    Your son’s drawing is so accurate. That’s exactly how it looked. I think we all remember where we were when the horrific events began. We were watching TV when the station suddenly started showing how a ‘light aircraft’ had hit the WTC. We then watched for the next six hours and hope to never see anything like that ever again xx

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