The world turned upside down

Doreen Heintz
Saturday, March 21, 2020
The world turned upside down

We are certainly living in some interesting times. March madness has been replaced with March sadness. March has always been one of my favorite months of the year. First spring begins – at least on the calendar, but we all look forward to green grass and leaves on the trees after a long, cold winter. But one other thing I always looked forward to was basketball, basketball and more basketball. I have even gone so far as to schedule two surgeries during March just so I can stay home from work and watch college basketball on television.

After the NCAA shut down all the men’s and women’s conference tournaments and then the NCAA national tournaments were shut down, I just didn’t see how I could go through a whole month without basketball. But so far I have made it.

As things change from day-to-day with the coronavirus, it brings back my memories from Sept. 11, 2001. In the spring of 2001, I had retired from teaching and was looking for a job. Just a few days before 9/11, I had gotten a job as the executive director of the Court Appointed Special Advocate program here in Lewistown. On Sept. 10, I flew to Nashville, Tennessee for a conference for CASA programs. The purpose of the conference was to get new executive directors up to speed on what was expected of our programs.

I felt kind of lost in a big city like Nashville. I have never been much of a traveler, and I didn’t especially like to fly. I like having my feet on the ground.

On Tuesday morning of Sept. 11, I went down early to the lobby of the hotel I was staying at in Nashville. The conference was being held in the same hotel, but I wanted to make sure I could find the room where the conference was being held.

While I was waiting for the conference to begin, I heard somebody say that a plane had just crashed into one of the twin towers in New York City. My first thought was “how can anybody drive a plane into a tower like that?” After the second tower was hit, I knew something was up.

Finally, everyone was called into the conference room and was told that the conference was cancelled. We still did not have any idea what was really happening. The conference did take the time to match us by states, so I did find out there were four other people from Montana at the conference.

After the conference came to its abrupt closing, I asked myself, “Now what do I do?”

Here I was over 1,600 miles from my home in Central Montana and not knowing a single person. I never felt so alone. The first thing I did, as Alan Jackson suggested in his song, “Where were you (when the world stopped turning),” I called my mom. I didn’t have a cell phone then so I had to call her collect. Boy, it felt good to hear her voice.

I went to my room at the hotel and became mesmerized as events unfolded on TV. The next two days were almost a blur. I did hook up with the rest of the Montana folks. We even did a little bit of sight-seeing together, even though a lot of the businesses had shut down.

Finally we had to make a decision on how we were going to get home. With all airplanes grounded in the United States, our two options were to wait until planes started flying again or drive back to Montana. I voted to drive. No way did I want to get back on a plane. We were lucky enough to get a rental car so off we started on our trip back to Montana. We took turns driving and made it in about 24 hours. It felt so good to get back to Montana.

The good thing about the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus is I am at home and I am safe - two things I didn’t feel so sure about during 9/11. I have also been lucky enough to work at the News-Argus this week. I think staying home all week might have started driving me nuts. I had no idea when this started that we would feel so restricted.

One thing I have learned about myself in both cases is that watching too much TV about both events is definitely not good for my mental health. I hope the weather turns nicer. I have lots of outdoor activities like cleaning out my garage that I could be doing.

Staying sheltered I would think is just up my son’s alley. After all he hates crowds, but he has decided the world is out to get him. We had just started our March Madness weight loss program through the Fitness Center - put on hold. He always looks forward to bowling on Tuesday evenings - also on hold. The final straw for him was when they closed down the movie theater.

“But there were so many good movies coming out in the next few weeks,” he complained.

Maybe I can get him to help clean the garage. Ha. Ha.

I know many of you may feel the same as I do, but we are Montana strong and we will get through it. To happier days ahead.

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