Biography - 911 Impacted Many, One Military Family Recalls Their Story

Updated on October 11, 2019
Nicole Sanders profile image

Nicole is a communications professional and mediator in the DFW area of Texas. She writes to reveal matters of importance to help others.

Media covers the 911 events today around the world. I was a military wife, expecting our third daughter on this day. As a journalist, I share my small story and also think of others and our nation for their loss that day. We will always remember that day in September with all the sadness, all the uncertainty, and all the grief for our nation and its people. Time heals but the impact will last forever.

SInce 911, the girls are happy and well-adjusted.

The girls were 15, 12 and 7 here on the Fourth of July.  They are 24, 21 and 17 today.
The girls were 15, 12 and 7 here on the Fourth of July. They are 24, 21 and 17 today. | Source

She cries at night.

Our oldest daughter knew her father flew airplanes for a living. She had watched the live events in her classroom. She relieved those visions each night, afraid an airplane would crash through the window of her safe, garden-themed floral bedroom.

Seeing the first plane hit, Sept. 11, 2001, at what became Ground Zero, now the 9/11 Memorial has been completed, dedicated in New York City, honoring those victims who lost their lives and their family members as well as those that served others during this time of national crisis, I reflected back to those events on September 11, 2001, and how it affected us. I was expecting our third child, who is now almost 18, and my husband, then an Air Force Major and aviator, was looking to separate from active-duty status and pursue civilian life while continuing his military career as a National Guardsman. He had been offered a job as an engineer with a government contractor in Missouri.

We were looking at homes in the St. Louis area and had an appointment with our realtor that September morning. I got up and turned on the TV, switching channels to the morning news. Before long, I saw the first airplane striking the first tower in New York City. In shock, I asked my spouse to join me to view the news and to help me understand what was happening.

That is no Sandpiper or Cessna

With the first plane collision into the first tower of the twin towers, we did not know if things were about to change for our family. We did know things had already changed for our nation. Recalling the events that morning, I said. "It looks like a small plane," I commented, and hoped. The proportion of the plane and the tower were distorted.

"Is that a small aircraft, like a Sandpiper or Cessna?" I speculated.

"No, that's no small aircraft," a C-130 navigator in the Air Force, he replied, adding grimly he needed to call the unit back at Little Rock, Ark., where we lived by the AFB base. He knew something was wrong.

We followed the news events the remainder of that day. We checked on friends at the Pentagon. We later heard that they were unharmed -- relief.

We were numb, dumbfounded. Not knowing what to do -- are we to remain active military, or do we pursue civilian life today? We continued our house hunt, just in case we settled in St. Louis, and he pursued his job offer.

What were we to do?

While what our family endured in no way compares to those that lost loved ones in 9/11, we still were impacted. In limbo for weeks and with our plans on hold, we did not know if my he was to stay in the Air Force, or continue his separation papers from active-duty and begin a part-time Air National Guard career, and work as an engineer in the civilian world. The military had issued a stop-loss. A stop-loss is an attempt by the military to reduce the number of individuals able to leave the service.

Questions of "is this right?"

"Are we to do this now?" "should he continue serving now -- he might be needed to serve our nation now?" and "should he be deployed... this is our opportunity to serve?" crowded my mind. We later received word that his military separation papers were still good. Since the stop-loss had been issued, had he put them in a week then, he would have to remain active duty. He had already accepted a job offer, and we were making plans to build a house in St. Louis. We could back out of these plans if our situation were to have changed with a need to continue serving our nation on active duty status. I would have gladly put our plans on hold if he were called to deploy at that time during our nation's crisis.

She cried at night.

As a result of viewing the crashing of the aircraft while at school in her classroom, our oldest daughter, Lauren Sanders, now 24, cried at night terrorized by the visions she saw in her class of the 911 events on TV. She was an impressionable seven-year-old and worried about her Air Force father. But just because we had answers about our future didn't mean everything was okay. While we were away in St. Louis on our house hunt, our daughters remained at home with a grandparent, who stayed to watch the girls. Seeing the reports of the plane crashes and ongoing events of 9/11 at school on televisions that tragic day, our oldest daughter, a second-grade student, was much upset by the circumstances. The visions terrorized her she saw that day. Our then youngest daughter was too young to understand or comprehend. She was three and in preschool. Our oldest daughter knew her father flew airplanes for a living. She worried about him incessantly each time he left for work on end, for what seemed months afterward. She wouldn't go near windows, afraid that an aircraft might fly through and crash into our home or building. She also cried in her sleep at night and had nightmares. I spoke with the school counselors and children’s ministers seeking help and support. Eventually, time passed, and she became more at ease. Her nightmares ceased. She began to heal. Today, she works in missions fighting human trafficking, giving hope and a future to young women less fortunate than her. As Lauren improved, some families and others are impacted by the events. Tributes are shown live on the news today of the memorial at Ground Zero, with the scenes more peaceful with water pools, names engraved into memorials and tributes given each year.

911 Memorial

While calm and serene, these surroundings and tributes appear, some wounds still run deep for many for their loss that day.

Moving On

We moved to St. Louis and moved on in 2002. Our third daughter was born the following February and is now almost 18, is a senior in high school, an athlete, and a co-editor of her school newspaper, The Red Ledger.Net in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. We moved to Texas in 2005 for business and family needs. The girls' father returned to active military duty in 2016-2017. Our family has moved on, so has our nation. Many have been affected, and our government and others still address issues from this day we remember.

© 2011 Nicole Nichols-Sanders


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      8 years ago

      As they mature, your daughteers will be stronger patriots as they realize the significance of their parents' response to duty. Patritism should become part of all children's lives. Love of God and Country make a stronger nation. Thank you for your continued service.


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