Photo courtesy of Peg Creonte

By Peg Creonte

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was home with our two young boys, just 4 and 5 years old and days away from starting school.

My husband Joe and I were excitedly counting down to September 17, when after months of waiting our court date in central Russia was scheduled to complete the adoption of our daughter, then just 14 months old. We had been permitted just one precious hour with her during a brief trip earlier in the year to complete the first half of the adoption proceedings. Now she felt like ours, and we couldn’t wait to bring her back to her forever home.

Then, in a matter of moments, everything changed.

I will never forget the horror of that day. My town outside of Boston lost many who were on the flights out of Logan Airport, and suddenly the world felt like a very dangerous and unpredictable place.

With all U.S. flights grounded, Joe and I weren’t sure whether we could get to Russia in time for our hearing – or if we even should. We were torn between our feelings of responsibility for our two sons and the strong pull to get Anna (we had already named her!) home.

We decided that if our flight was “on”, we would go. So, about one week after 9/11, we were on one of the first flights to resume out of Logan. After a successful hearing in Ufa, Russia, we made it to Moscow with Anna, where we had a week of administrative procedures to complete at the U.S. Embassy.  

While in Moscow, we experienced an outpouring of support for the U.S. that defied any preconceived notion of our national enmity. Flowers stacked up day after day in front of the embassy, left by the sympathetic citizens of Moscow. We must have stood out as Americans, as we were stopped on the street by multiple people eager to express their sorrow over the tragic events of September 11.

One woman approached us and pulled out a pen and notepad from her bag. She drew a picture of the Twin Towers with a plane approaching — and then expressed her sympathy and sorrow with her eyes. I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s when Russia was seen as a threatening place. In those moments in Moscow, however, the humanity of the Russian people, and their collective solidarity with the people of America, was incredible to witness.

As the President strongly signaled his intent to launch an offensive in Afghanistan, we feared another shutdown of American airspace that would keep us from home. But thankfully, we were able to travel back uneventfully. I’ve never been so grateful to feel the wheels hit the tarmac as I was on that return flight with Anna, resting peacefully across our laps.

Today, Anna is a 21-year-old college student, with no recollection of September 11. We are so grateful for her, grateful for the country that welcomed her as one of its own — and reminded of the innate goodness of people.