By Jennifer Rawlings
A September morning 2001
Sherman Oaks , California 5:45 am- I hate getting up this early. Can I push the snooze button for another three hours? Maybe the kids don’t need to go to the second day of school…..maybe…..maybe…maybe…. alright I convince myself. I’ll get up and make the kids lunches.
The house is quiet. I pour myself a cup of coffee and realize once again that I enjoy the edges of the day- just before the sun has risen and the world is at peace.
Four turkey sandwiches on homemade potato bread coming up. Joshy hates mayonnaise, Noah wants lots of it, Elijah probably wants two sandwiches and Courtney hates everything. A bag of chips in each lunch box, four apples sliced with lemon juice squeezed on, four juice boxes, a post-it note on the top of each sandwich- “ I Love YOU” Have a great day xox MOMMY”
Where are the chocolate chip cookies I made last night? Don’t tell me the kids ate them all already.
6:15 a.m— time to wake up the kids.
“ Whose ready to have a great day at school and inspire other to do the same?”
“I’m sick” …. “I don’t want to go” ….. “ School stinks”…..
I pull away the blankets from the kids beds and break into the song that my own father annoyed me with every single day of school.
“It’s up in the morning the breaking of day, the chuck wagons busy the flapjacks at play”
Who on earth is calling at 6:30 in the morning? Somebody must be dead. Oh my God it’s my dad, or my mom…I run to the phone yelling back at the kids- “Get out of bed this instant…and who ate all the cookies”
Donnie, it’s 6:30 in the morning- I thought somebody died, I’m trying to get the kids to school. What? Why do you want me to turn on the TV? Donnie I don’t have time for this stuff in the morning. I gotta go- Fine I will turn on the TV — I promise.
Luintic songwriter that Donny.
“KIDs get out of bed this second!!! I mean it.”
Where is the remote? Donny never told me what chanel.
“oh my god- what’s happening!”
Noah comes running to see what is wrong. I push the door closed before his kindergarten eyes can see what I’m seeing. I’m screaming and crying and silent all at the same time. I can’t move. Tears are streaming down my face I have to pull myself together. So I do what I always do in times of crisis- it was too early to drink so I call my dad.
“Daddy whats happening? I don’t understand. Are we going to war? What’s happening? We have to make a plan. If any thing else happens we have to have an emergency meeting place. The kids and I will walk West and you and mom will walk East. Our emergency meeting place will be on Interstate 70 somewhere between Salina, Ks and Sherman Oaks , Ca. Love you daddy- don’t FORGET walk to I-70.
The kids went to school three hours late and I picked them up after only an hour. I couldn’t stand being away from them.
Like everyone else I watched TV all day searching for answers. In the evening the names of the passengers on the airplane started to slowly scroll over the TV screens.
I knew three people on two of the planes that day. One of them, Carolyn Mayer-Beug, had been my then husbands boss at Disney. I remember drinking moonshine with her on a trip to Nashville for CMA week. She and her mother were together on the plane- they had just dropped off Carolyn’s twin daughters for their Freshman year at Brown.
The next few days were full of candle light vigils on the sidewalks in Studio City, American flags waving on car antennas and on front porchs. My first stand-up gig at the Melrose Improv just days after 9/11 when Chris Rock so brilliantly said from stage to an audience of only 15–20 people. “Lets’ talk about the big ass pink elephant in the room”
I remember flying to the Midwest to perform a few days after planes were allowed to fly again. LAX was deserted and there were only a handful of passengers on my flight. Everyone said “please” “ thank you” and smiled.
Weeks turned into months ,the flags came down and life started to return to normal.
Then the bombs started to drop first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq and I got a phone call.
“ Jennifer its John ( bla bla bla) from William Morris”
“John blah,blah,blah your agent”
“Oh , sorry, you’ve never called me before so I didn’t recognize your voice.”
“ I have a gig for you. How would you like to Iraq and Afghanistan to entertain the troops. It’s really dangerous and the pay is terrible. Wanna go?”
“ A war zone for no money.. sure “
17 years, 65 countries and over 350 shows later for the troops.
I will never forget.