#967 | Tuesday, March 12th 2002
A Run for Life


My life changing experience occurred on 9/11/01 while on a summer travel trip to the US Mid- Atlantic states in our trailer. All was going well until my husband and I were finishing up our sightseeing in Washington, DC. Early on that morning, we left in the dark to catch the subway to the first stop on our busy schedule for the day, the 9 AM tour of the Pentagon.
We arrived by Metro subway before 8 AM to allow time to go through heavy security. After showing a photo ID, we were given a numbered badge to wear. As always I scoped out an alternative exit and a bathroom. Being married to a fireman for 43 years has taught me to be prepared for anything.
At exactly 8:45 AM, a tall and distinguished US Army Honor Guard Tour Guide (in full dress uniform including white gloves) gave us our marching orders and had us place all bags, fanny packs and purses in a closet to be locked up securely until we returned. Then he had the 30 of us line up 2 by 2 to enter through the alarmed security doors. We were now on our way through their shopping mall into the hallowed halls of the Pentagon.
About 1/3 of the way through our tour, we heard a loud boom and felt strong movement. Folks in California might call it a 4.3 earthquake. It was now approximately 9:30 AM. Our tour guide yelled 3 pieces of information:
(our route) “FOLLOW ME”, (our destination) “TO THE METRO EXIT”,
(our procedure) “ON THE RUN!” We complied willingly for after having gone up ramps and down stairs, we had no idea where we were and no clue as how to exit this huge building safely.
While keeping my eyes focused on that tall tour guide in front of us, I listened to the people pouring out of offices offering guesses as to what had happened (a bomb in the courtyard, plane landing at Reagan airport in trouble and flew into the Pentagon, etc.) What I did know was that something serious had happened. This was not a practice run.
A few civilian employees were falling apart emotionally even though there was neither smoke nor fire where we were. Everyone was running the same direction, but I wasn’t sure about their knowledge of a Disaster Exit Plan or if there was one. I knew that our salvation from this experience depended upon following our tour guide’s instructions.
During the run down the hall my life did not flash before my eyes, but other thoughts were racing through my mind. One example was the fact that the paper work on our financial affairs had not been brought up to date before we left home. If Bill and I were to die at the same time, the kids would be searching for a needle in a haystack. In fact, if I died before Bill, he’d have the same problem. I told myself that I would take care of that business detail as soon as we returned home. Also without ID, the only thing people would know about me was that I was a grandma because the front of my tee shirt said so. I won’t bore you with any other crazy conversations I was having with myself.
There was a second Army officer tour guide with us. Because my husband has artificial hips and cannot run quickly this tour guide stayed with him the entire run constantly asking if he was all right. This one also assured me that the closet would be open so we could get our personal items. I wondered if that was a fact or a hope. Sure enough, after going the security doors, I swooped up my mini-disaster fanny pack out of the closet and quickly moved toward the exit. Just before we left the building, we passed by our tall tour guide standing against the wall. We gave him our numbered ID badges, the only identification we had throughout the entire experience and the only proof that we had made it out safely. We thanked him quickly and went out into the south parking lot. Adrenaline was abundant for flight, not to be wasted on fright.
We turned westward and saw billowing black smoke, but it wasn’t until I heard a car radio blaring the news that I learned what had happened in New York and to the Pentagon. We all were then told to move away from the building because there was a fourth plane heading towards Washington, DC. That was the one that went down in Pennsylvania. I turned eastward and saw in the distance the beautiful white Capitol. It had been spared but at such a price.
When the F-16 military planes roared overhead, we knew that protection for the city had arrived. They were certainly a welcomed sight. We watched the military set up triage and begin organizing their “troops” while they waited for fire department equipment and ambulances to arrive. Only one trip by the medivac helicopter could be made with the injured before all of the planes were grounded in the country.
Seeing that our training in CPR and first aid was not needed, our next challenge was to find a way back to our trailer in Maryland. We began a long trip around to the other side of the Pentagon where we saw flames, smoke and the gaping hole in its side. We were aware that with this kind of damage there had to be many injuries and even deaths. Sadly, we continued on and climbed a wall into Arlington Cemetery for the long, long walk to a working subway.
The Washington DC of Sunday, September 9th with wall-to-wall people was gone. Having been evacuated, DC was like a ghost town with the streets occupied by only police, military with big guns, a man in a suit running with an attaché case, and two tourists, us. But underground the subway was bustling with activity. There were people who had never ridden the subway and were at a loss as to how to get home. We, with city and subway maps in our possession, were the center of attention for quite a while. For two weeks we had seen people with their heads buried in newspapers and books, talking to no one. Now everyone was talking to someone about what had happened, where they were when it happened, and trying to figure out why it had happened.
Even though we had learned about the attacks on the World Trade Center, nothing had prepared us for seeing their collapse repeated over and over again on the TV for days and realizing the terrible loss of life. We had just been to the top two weeks before. The many pictures I had taken showing their beauty were still in my camera not to be developed until we were home.
We finally got in touch with the family to let them know that we were OK. This was the only day of our four month trip that the family knew exactly where we were would be. We were in big trouble because they were sure that we could have found a pay phone somewhere in DC to let them know hours before that we were alive and well. I told the kids that this was payback for the times we waited up when they were out past curfew. They were not impressed with my attempt at humor.
We left Washington the next day and began the long trip home to the West Coast. We saw God Bless America, United We Stand and Prayer for Our Leaders written on signs everywhere, even on school marquees. Flags of all sizes were flown from poles, windows and cars. It was apparent that a great change had happened to the American people over night.
When folks at home found out where we had been during the terrorists’ attack, they asked me a lot of questions. My answers included the following: “ No, I wasn’t afraid. No, we didn’t panic. No, I didn’t think I was going to die. I guess it wasn’t my time to go.” My responses seemed so inadequate after awhile.
These questions made me re-think my experience and re-evaluate my life and my priorities. At the same time, my pastor Dave Moore of Southwest Community Church in Indian Wells, CA preached powerful messages about sharing God’s love and salvation. He made me aware that because of what had occurred on 9/11, people all over were searching for answers as to what had happened, what was important in their lives, and what they could do about it. I was challenged to meet my responsibility as a Christian to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to those around me.
While I am not shy about my faith, I have never been one to get up on a soapbox and preach either. I knew that I had a story to tell, but how was I going to do it. My decision was to change my Christmas letter that normally shares family news to one about my experience and what it meant to me. Since this would be a totally new challenge I yelled to God for help, and the letter was completed in an amazingly short time. I decided that not only would I sent it to the 250 people on my Christmas mailing list, I would give it to anyone who sent me any kind of letter, card, solicitation, or bill. It was MY money paying for all of it, so I was going for broke. The worst thing that could happen would be a shortening of my Christmas card list for the next year. The best thing would be changed lives. I anticipated some interesting reactions, and I got some.
My letter included a shorten version of the experience, the following reflections, and what I had learned from them. Now it was my turn to ask questions. So here it goes.

“Exit from our physical life can happen any time, any place and in any way.
Do you know where you are going to spend eternity? Where is your destination?
To whom are you looking for your security? Who is your tour guide? How are
you going to get there? What is the procedure? Jesus gives the answers to these
questions in the book of John in the Bible. He states in John 11: 25,26, ‘I am the
resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies; and
whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’
I ask you dear family and friends, do you believe this? Jesus is my Tour Guide.
My destination is to be with God for eternity, and I am following His instructions
completely. He says BELIEVE, and our action is TO BELIEVE.
I urge you to read the book of John for THE PLAN given for a life of
peace and purpose now and life eternal whenever it may come. If you want to
know about what is coming in the world situation, read the book of Daniel
(Old Testament) and The Revelation (New Testament), and you will discover
who wins.”

After the Christmas letter went out, this event began to take on a life of its own. People began to ask me for copies of my letter to send to their family and friends. I was asked to share an expanded version with several groups. Tapes of my talk were requested and were sent out. E-mail of the letter even went to Africa.
Then I started a new project. It took seven phone numbers, but I worked my way through Ft. Meyer where the tour guides are stationed and the Pentagon where they were assigned. I finally was connected with their supervisor’s office. He was intending to write an article about them and wanted me to fax everything I had written about the experience. By that time, this included not only the Christmas letter but also an evaluation letter about our tour that I had sent to the Pentagon. I, in turn, wanted an address so I could send the tour guides an appropriate thank you along with my Christmas letter and everything else I had written about them. Warned that this would take a long time for delivery because of security, I was prepared to patiently wait, and I did. Besides, the more people who had to screen my letter were more people who had to read my questions.
I finally received a response from the tall tour guide asking if we wanted to complete the tour when they were up and running again. He would like to finish what he had started that day. My answer, of course, was that we would be there any time it could happen and wanted him to be our leader again. He does not consider his actions during the evacuation to be heroic. He just was doing his job as our tour guide and as a soldier in the US Army. But after all of us had been safely evacuated, he felt relief that he was going home to his wife and baby.
Someone told me that I should write a book about what had happened. This is the closest I’ll ever get to that challenge. Another suggested that I send my letter to President Bush. I am still contemplating that one. He hears from generals and admirals all of the time. Maybe the commander-in-chief would be interested in what two of his rank and file did on 9/11.
After this experience, I will never look at life or death the same way. This has given me a new perspective on my salvation experience. I certainly have been moved out of my comfort zone of the church pew. Every time I am before a microphone my heart races, my palms are sweaty and my knees are shaking. I am not a public speaker, but I do believe that I survived this experience for a purpose and an opportunity not to be wasted. I am to glorify my God and spread His message of salvation and grace. Jesus states in Matthew 10:32, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before God in heaven”. What a wonderful promise.
I do hope that those reading this story will ask themselves, their family and friends the same questions that I asked in my letter. Now is the time for all of us to evaluate who and what is important to us in this life and for all of eternity.


Marilyn Morsch | 64 | California

#959 | Monday, March 11th 2002
i was on my way to work and i was listening to howard stern tell of the events unfolding live from ny city.i pulled over n called my husband and i was crying n asking is this true?i never made it to work.i couldnt believe once i saw it on tv.i still cry every time i see anything on the wtc.......
kim | 37 | California

#955 | Monday, March 11th 2002
I was at home sleeping in. Being on the west coast, it was just before 7am when a friend of mine called from Denver and said, "They have attacked the Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon." As he began to tell me this, I was still somewhat incoherent, but as soon as he mentioned the Pentagon, I sat bolt upright and said, "Holy s***! Were at war!"

I ran into the TV room and watched as just as the President came on with his first announcement. I did not move from the TV for the rest of the day. I watched as both towers collapsed and when the reports of the 4th plane crashing in PA. I could not believe that all of this was happening. I never thought anything like this could occur in our country.

That night I went outside and the sky was clear, there wasn't anything but the stars and a single aircraft in the sky. It was an F-16 flying cover over the Los Angeles area. It was then that it sank in that it wasn't a movie, all of the days events really happened.

We will move on, but we will never forget.

God Bless America

Chris Peak | 31 | California

#943 | Monday, March 11th 2002
I was at home with my husband in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was already up and getting ready for work and had TV news on in another room and heard that a plane had hit the WTC. He alerted me to turn on the TV in the bedroom which I did. I watched for a few moments and saw a plane flying too low. Then it crashed into the 2nd tower. We were shocked. We've lived through Vietnam, the civil rights movement, earthquakes, personal traumas. Nothing prepared us to see the crash and then the devasting implosions of the towers. As the hours and days unfolded, we discovered we knew several people who were directly affected: the husband of a friend of my sister's, the inlaws of a woman I knew in grade school, the son of another woman I knew in grade school, a former employee of my employer. We'll never forget that morning and will always be grateful that we were together and safe during that terrible time.
Cathy & Corky Prazenica | 55 | California

#939 | Monday, March 11th 2002
september 11th 2001 sucked and I just hot the submit key and it said my comment needs to contain 50 characters, so, again, I repeat: september 11th 2001 sucked
eric howard | 34 | California

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