11 September 2001 started like any other day for me. Well, kind of, I was serving a mission in the wonderful country of Chile, in the city of Santiago.
Through out the week I was given a brief lesson on the history of Chile. The 11th of September is the anniversary of the coup d’etat of the Chilean government. With this anniversary there had always been riots and fires in the streets, and a general lack of safety. So I was warned that I would most likely not be allowed outside in the evening.
That morning, I got out of bed, showered, ate breakfast, and studied a bit before heading to a zone class with about 12-15 other missionaries, North-Americans as well as Latin-Americans. The class was really just a time to meet and touch bases and see if we could offer help to each other. This day we were also to find out if we would be allowed to be out in the evening.
Because we try to help each other out, we like to share animo-funny stories (ex: how a dog bit us or how we said the wrong word in Spanish) to help lift our spirits. I really don’t remember my animo for the day, but there were two companionships of Latin-Americans that talked about how there was a movie with life-like graphics. One companionship had seen, on a TV monitor they passed that morning, a plane fly into one of the Towers. The other companionship had seen a plane fly into the Pentagon. The rest of us had not heard or seen anything else, so we figured it must have been a movie and continued with our meeting.
We were preparing to break into smaller groups (districts) when a Police officer entered the church building where we were meeting. That is when we started to realize that something was wrong. The officer told us that he realized that most of us were North-Americans and told us that there had been an attack on our country. He told us that we needed to leave the building, and head to our homes and await instructions from our leaders. He told us that we needed to keep our heads covered and if we see anything suspicious like a package or a stray backpack to call the police right away. So, we ended our class early and headed to our apartments.
My companion, Hermana Davis, and I had a lunch appointment that we needed to cancel. We knew that the house was on our way to the apartment so we knocked on the door to let the lady know we would not be able to return in an hour for lunch as we have been told to go home and stay there. We were told that the food was ready and that we could eat it right away if we entered. We entered and told her that we could only stay a short while as the two other people we lived with would start to worry about us. Well, lunch was not ready, in fact it was barely started. But we were not allowed to leave her house, and she had the television on and the volume up all the way so she could listen to it from the kitchen. We asked her if we could turn the TV off or at least down if we had to stay. She said “No,” and so we heard all the commentary in English, and then translated into Spanish, making it impossible to ignore what was being said. The images that I saw on that screen will probably never be erased from my mind.
Finally she gave us food, we ate quickly and headed strait home where our roommates were starting to worry. We were in for the day. And it wasn’t even noon yet. We weren’t prepared to be in all day and didn’t have food for the evening, so we called our leaders and asked if we could go half a block to the store and get bread and cheese. After a few minutes we were told that we could go if we put on pants (not skirts), wore hooded sweatshirts and kept our heads covered, and went strait there and back. Our roommates were told that if we did not return in 5 minutes they were to call them back. We went, and made it back with out trouble.
Really, I know that I did not know the gravity of the situation. It was not until I returned to the U.S.A. that I realized what changes were in store for our lives. Flying was no longer an adventure, but it became a long line of torturing our feet and watching everyone’s luggage be stopped on the x-ray machines.
So five years ago I knew the day would be different from any other I had yet experienced, I just didn’t know how different it would be. Then it was hard to take-in because I was so far away, and now I am here and I can do my part to help the American-way-of-life be better by just being the best Marcia I can be. That is my Challenge to everyone everywhere, to be the best you that you can be and make your community a better place just for having you there.