A Terror-Defying Vacation

(in)courage | 9/13/2017 | Cheri Dee Johnson
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A sharp rap sounded on our hotel room door. I opened it to find my mother-in-law, wide-eyed and pale. “Turn on your TV! Any channel! There’s been a terrorist attack in New York City.”

And suddenly our vacation found us staring at a television screen — my husband’s mouth gaping. He used to live in New York City. Years before he had enjoyed lunch with a friend at the World Trade Center which was now huffing oily, evil smoke from both towers. In horror we watched the massive structures of steel and concrete buckle under the intense heat.

Sort - Movie - Heart

Is this real? Is this not some sort of sick movie? But my heart, silently keening, answered, No. This is very, very real.

Stunned and nauseous, we eventually checked out of the hotel so we could travel from Moab, UT, where we’d hiked Arches National Park the day before, to Bryce Canyon National Park, where we’d camp for the next few days. To protect our children from further trauma, we left the radio off. It was a quiet five hours in the front seat as my husband and I tried to sort through what had happened.

Tent - Night - Attack - Terrorists - Parks

Tucked into our tent that night, I had to wrestle down a panic attack. What if the terrorists are hiding out in national parks? What if they’re here?! This fear was founded on the fact that a few days earlier we’d been detained in Yellowstone National Park with all the exits closed while officials hunted down fugitives from Minnesota.

In the days that followed September 11, 2001, we observed the reaction of America across the West. Employees at a Grand Canyon lodge offered comfort by airing the prayer service televised from Washington’s National Cathedral. Along the highways we watched uncertainty spike gas prices, while patriotism cried out on marquees, “United We...
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