A few minutes later, we were told that a plane crashed nearby, and that there might be some type of search for survivors, then a few minutes after that, we were told there were no survivors.
In a state of unbelief, we thought it best to leave the area, and we went out to the military cemetery. Being in shock over the whole thing, and after visiting the site of Lincoln's Gettysburg address which seemed appropriate, we continued our tour of the battlefield. We had an audiotape of the tour, and it was surreal, as the announcer told us how many died at a particular spot on the field, then pop out the tape prior to the next stop, only to hear on the radio the description of the towers falling, and all the commentary. It was a reminder of how tragedy is truly reciprocal, and how each succeeding generation is not immune.
My clearest memory of that day was how beautiful and clear it was on the battlefield. We got out and walked to the everlasting flame memorial on the battlefield at one stop, and hundreds of people from the business district at Gettysburg joined us there. I suppose people thought that was the most logical place to be on such a tragic day. I'll also never forget how nice people were to each other, and how nobody was in a hurry like they usually are. People actually took time to speak to each other around that memorial, and many just stood and stared.
We drove back on Interstate 81, possibly thinking of continuing our vacation in the nation's capital the following morning, and where Interstate 66 exits to Washington, D.C., there was a flashing sign I'll never forget that said, "Major incident in D.C., specific business only." It was truly a reminder to me of how I take our freedom of travel for granted.
We went to Gatlinburg, Tenn., for a couple of days and participated in a prayer service in the town square, then decided we weren't having any fun and came back home. I was selfish at the time, thinking my vacation was ruined, with the full scope of the tragedy not yet sunk in. Knowing there are fanatics trying to kill me and my family, I hope it never fully does, and I always remember.
I still have the Gettysburg newspaper from the following day announcing the tragedy. I've put it up and haven't gotten it out since. I don't plan to for a long time yet, and neither do my parents.