Thinking back to that Tuesday morning 14 years ago, I cannot believe how young and naive I was.
On September 11, 2001, I was a 25 year old single mother working as a Loaned Executive for Humana Insurance with the Brown County United Way. That glorious fall morning, I had dropped my son off at his daycare like any other morning. I made my way back into Green Bay for my scheduled presentation to my fellow Humana employees at the downtown location in the KI Convention center. I distinctly remember admiring the crystal clear skies, the remarkable color of blue that went on as far as the eye could see was absolutely glorious. As I mentally reviewed my schedule for the rest of my day, I was thankful to have been chosen for the Loaned Executive position and I looked forward to driving to my appointments across the city because it would allow me to be out and about in that amazingly beautiful weather rather than being stuck in my cubicle at the main office.
My first presentation at 8am held just over a dozen employees, not too bad for the first one of the day. At the conclusion of my presentation, I started noticing a steady stream of people heading down the hall to the right of my room. An employee I knew stuck his head into the meeting room and said, “Hey Jennifer, we have a television on in the cafeteria, are you coming?”. I had no clue what he was talking about, but Kevin, my normally reserved, level-headed co-worker, looked absolutely stunned and terrified. So I followed him.
I remember watching in horror. I too, was stunned. My mind could not make sense of what my eyes were seeing. My thought process was completely shut down.
We saw the second plane hit. We shook our heads in disbelief. People cried, hugged. I felt paralyzed. Gripped with fear. Completely unsure of the world I was standing in. Incredulous at the thought of how may people had just died, were dying, or were about to die.
I remember someone saying, “Can’t they get a helicopter to drop a ladder and rescue people off the roof!?”
I remember thinking of the people trapped above the impact zone, the people who were watching from neighboring buildings, and suddenly realized that in my role at Humana, I frequently accessed MultiPlan Insurance through my contact Barbara in Manhattan, but I had no idea where her office was.
In a group of co-workers huddled in a cafeteria, watching history unfold in absolute horror, I remember feeling extremely vulnerable and wildly unprepared.
We watched the first tower fall in disbelief. The buzzing numbness that paralyzed my body is still sharp in my memory.
The executives of Humana were actually at Ground Zero when the planes hit. They were in New York to ring the NYSE bell on Sept. 11, 2001 and were touring the World Trade Center grounds while in Manhattan that morning. One of them called into corporate and directed all employees go home to be with their families.
I went to my next appointment at FedEX where the entire office staff was gathered around a tv in the main office area. Same thing at my next stop. I remember calling my sister and saying, “I don’t know what to do with myself, what do I do, should I get Alex and head out to Mom’s?” Her answer absolutely chilled me to the bone. She directed me to stay in town. “Don’t come here, we’re closer to the nuclear plant. Get some groceries,” she said, “get Alex and get to your apartment.”
The panic at the grocery store was palpable. I quickly grabbed a cart and filled it with staples; bread, peanut butter, Cheerios, etc. while the man in front of me in the checkout opted for vodka, olives, and about 50 frozen pizzas.
Passing the gas stations in town on the way to my son’s daycare, I started noticing lines forming at the pumps of the gas stations on my route. By the time I had collected him and driven the short distance to my apartment, there was a line a half a mile long at the gas station just down from my apartment. It wasn’t more than four hours since the attacks had started and I was already witnessing chaos around me.
I ducked into my attached garage, shuttled Alex and my groceries into my apartment, then proceeded to check all the window and door locks in the house, cursing my decision to live on the ground floor. I had limited supplies, no personal defense plan, and while fear and uncertainty swirled around me like a tornado, I vowed then and there to never be unprepared again.
I wish it didn’t take victims to make survivors, but for a lot people, it takes a tragedy to awaken our senses.
While our country remains incredulous at the heinous actions of a few terrorists, and deeply sympathetic over the loss of life of so many that fateful day, September 11, 2001 awoke in many the will to survive. To protect. To serve. And to give. For myself, I made a conscious decision to do whatever it took to assist in the charitable foundations in my community. I volunteered at the Red Cross. I reenergized my efforts in the United Way. I was a guest DJ at the oldies station in Green Bay, joining the guys to talk about what people could do to help the efforts at Ground Zero. As much as I just wanted to curl up on my couch and watch the continuous coverage of the news and personal stories pouring out of Manhattan, pushed myself to connect deeper into my community to make the greatest impact I could.
I also started working to ensure I would be able to care for and protect myself and my young son should the need to do so arrive at my doorstep. Now I teach my children to always be prepared. They know that if disaster strikes, we have a plan in place. As a parent, I’m no longer that vulnerable, unprepared young woman I was fourteen years ago. I’m not only willing to defend myself and my family, I’m able to defend them.
Along with an ample stock of supplies, we have firearms and ammunition to defend ourselves. Are the chances we’ll ever need them slim? Absolutely. Do I sleep a little better at night knowing I’m prepared? Absolutely. You don’t need an underground bunker and cache of weapons to feel secure, but knowing that I have
No longer am I this scared, defenseless mother of one:
Instead, I’m now an armed, prepared, fearless mother of three ready to defend and able to protect myself and my children:
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you and God Bless America!