One week before 911, my family and I were in NY staying at the Mariott Marquis in Times Square. Our hotel room with our two little baby girls was at the top of the tower. A business partner invited us to the Rainbow Room that is at the top of the NBC building. I remember having my first ever 12 dollar cappuccino, and staring across that amazing city at the lighted windows of the tower where my little girls awaited our return from dinner. We were blessed that weekend to have full access to a driver and a car for touring purposes of the city. We did it all—the Statue of Liberty, the Twin Towers, even Katz’s deli where you can buy a salami for your boy in the Army!
When I saw the first of the Twin Towers crash only days later, in my mind all I could see was the view I had seen out of the Rainbow Room as I looked across to the tower that held my babies. I didn’t know how many towers would fall that day, but I dropped to my knees to pray for those who were inside, and to thank God that we were home from New York in time to miss the tragedy. On our way home, I learned that I was expecting our next child, a boy we would later name for his daddy—John William Loudon. We call him “Jack.”
On that day, September 11, we were back from our trip to New York, and dressing to get ready to go to the Capitol that day. My husband was elected to the State Senate, and had a beautiful office in the corner of the Capitol overlooking the riverbanks, and beyond that, the airport. When I saw the planes fly into the buildings on TV, I believed it was probably the beginning of the end. I was so thankful to be with my husband and children, but I did not want to go to the Capitol that day. The Capitol was the most likely target in the state and I didn’t want to put my children in harm’s way. But I knew that John was called to be there, and it was our duty as his family to carry on together. I reasoned that if anything were to happen, we would be together to see the face of God that day. I tried to focus on that, rather than fear. My husband had an obligation as a Senator to serve his constituents, so we had to honor that. I recall watching every plane that took off and landed out of my husband’s Capitol office window that day. Some flew low, and helicopters continually circled.
Normally, I homeschooled my five children in my husband’s senate office each day while he was in session. But that day, there was a solemn mood that hung over those of us who were there, so the children and I read scripture, and other favorite books, and did a lot of cuddling. It was soulful—prayerful. A TV stood in the corner reporting death and destruction, serving as a reminder of all that I was trying to hide from my little ones. We were surrendered to what might come, and trying to remain hopeful and joyful in the face of a day we knew would forever change who we were and who America was as a nation.
Smiles were exchanged among political enemies. Friends visited friend’s offices. People sat in silent reflection, or prayer. Everyone watched Television or listened to radio to hear of further atrocities. Police swarmed the halls of the Capitol. This day was eerie, and silent.
Things would never be the same. Security was tightened, metal detectors were installed, and some of my favorite parts of our beautiful Capitol were closed off. But hearts were opened. Every office flew a flag, and no one was afraid to admit that there was a God. I resented the irony of some who mentioned God now, while they avoided Him before they needed Him. I reminded myself to be patient with them, because we all tend to turn to those we need in times of trouble.
That day, I knew that God was asking America to reconcile who we were in the face of a threat. I knew He wanted us to turn back to Him, and be a nation on our knees. We needed to learn to be bold, something Americans grapple with in the face of controversy.
I traveled again a couple of years later to New York to do Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” to talk about my BUYcott of Whole foods. This time I was alone. I had a whole day to myself after the taping, and decided to go to ground zero. The docent who gave the amazing tour told us, at the end of the tour, that she had lost her son on September 11. He was a broker in a financial agency, and her eyes still sparkled when she spoke of him. I wondered how it was that she walked his death place with unsuspecting tourists every day. I thought of teenagers who might make insensitive jokes, or worse, terrorists that might take pride in what happened on that sacred ground. 9/11 was a defining moment for her (my docent that day), in ways that most of us could never know.
Whether or not we lost loved ones on 9/11, the loss defined all of us in new ways. I know now that the best thing we can do is continue to define our moments with more intention, more love, more prayer. We need to renew our commitment to fly our flags, be a nation on our knees, and be willing to fight for those freedoms boldly.
I closed my radio shows asking my audience daily to “go boldly now, and live the Truth.” I would give readers and patriots of all kinds that same charge, in tribute to all that was lost that day, and in honor of all that was saved.