Where Were You?

By Linda Elissalde
On September 11, 2020, Marcel and I viewed the recorded 2014 opening of the 9/11 Memorial Museum at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City. It was a moving ceremony honoring those whose lives were lost, survivors and first responders. At times I was moved to tears by the honoring of those who sacrificed their lives, and the speeches of gratitude by those still alive. I certainly remember where I was when this tragedy happened.

I remember a lot of events that occurred in my lifetime. However, I do not always remember where I was when they happened. I am sure my parents remembered where they were on December 7, 1941. Pearl Harbor was bombed. I do not, but then I was only 7 months old. My dad was not called up until late in the war. I think I recall sitting on the floor playing with dolls while my grandparents and mother listened to the radio. Suddenly all three begin cheering. Mom grabbed me in a hug. It seemed that World War II was over, and daddy could come home.

A lot has happened between then and now, I remember three events that I can see as clearly as if it were yesterday. Actually they are more clear than yesterday. It was November 21, 1963, and my first year of being a teacher at South Houston Elementary School. My friend Anne Hunter picked me up for our ride back to Westheimer where we shared an apartment. The Gulf Freeway was closed because of a Motorcade. President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacquline were visiting Houston. We stopped to watch. Some children next to us held a banner that read, “Two Young Democrats Love You!” Mrs. Kennedy saw it, touched her husband’s arm, and they both turn to wave at the tots. The sun was shining behind them. The Kennedys looked beautiful.

November 22, 1963, I was instructing my fourth grade class. (That class picture hangs in our study.) Joanne Yenesis knocked on my door, motioned me to come over and whispered, “The President has been shot.” I thought she must have made that up. Presidents were not assassinated in the 20th century. We ran to our tiny school office. Principal Tom Carrell, faculty and staff huddled around a tiny plug-in radio. Teachers leaving classrooms unattended was definitely a no no, but that day was unique. Then, an announcer proclaimed something unbelievable. President John F. Kennedy was dead.

Important happenings have occurred in the fifty-seven years since those fall days. Most are happy ones, but not all. Some are small personal ones. Some were world changing, and I certainly know where I was on September 11, 2001. I was talking on the phone in Houtzdale, Pennsylvania. My dear friend Billie Shadid was in a hospital in Austin, Texas suffering from a life threatening disease Necrotizing Fasciitis. I called everyday to check if she had lived through another night. Her nephew answered the phone in the waiting room to give updates for me to pass on to other friends. Before I could even ask how she was doing, he said,”You won’t believe what I just saw on TV. A plane crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York City.” That sounded terrible. We discussed that Billie had survived another night. Suddenly, he shouted, “Another plane just hit the other Tower.” We both understood that these were not accidental. I quickly turned on our TV. Confusion reigned everywhere. Next, a plane hit the Pentagon in Washington DC. Were we at war? Then 94 miles to the south of us, another plane crashed in Somerset County.

Life has changed so much since that day. We visited the Tower Site site on a 2001 Christmas trip to NYC. We stood on a platform to view the crumpled remains. There was still a foul smell in the air. Pictures and notes were tacked around on the protecting fence. No one made a sound. All was silence.

My friend Billie recovered to have many years bringing happiness to her family and friends. Marcel and I moved back to Texas. Here in Crystal Beach we have built new memories, but some old ones will always remain. Especially moving are the ones where I can say, “I know where I was when that happened.” Seeing the opening of the World Trade Center Memorial Museum brought them back. You probably have some that are unforgettable. WHERE WERE YOU?


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