On 9/11, David and I awoke to a glorious salmon-colored sunrise at our favorite high mountain lodge on Tioga Pass — just outside of Yosemite. We were at 10,000 feet elevation watching the vibrant sun shine off the majestic surrounding granite mountains. So close to heaven.

I walked the short pathway to the lodge’s lobby and dining area, and there my world changed forever.

On the lobby’s TV, I saw the terrifying scene of the World Trade Center billowing black smoke, debris everywhere, people running, screaming. Oh, my God!

People in the lobby were walking like zombies, mouths agape. What is this? An accident? But two planes crashing into the twin towers? This is no accident. Are we at war?

Back in our room I told David he would never believe what had happened. We rushed back to the lobby and watched transfixed along with the others as we witnessed our safe haven, America, become a violent target.

Instantly blown away was our sense of security and national well-being. The startling realization that we were vulnerable to enemy hostility here at home, anywhere, anytime, shook my husband and I to the core. To add to this terror, we had no idea who was responsible for such hatred and destruction.

Outside the lobby the startling beauty of the high mountain morning called our souls to another direction.

With our minds and hearts full of chaos, we left the lobby, the lodge, the lifeline of reporting and headed into the mountains. There we spent the next five days hiking, cocooned by the beauty of God’s creation — contemplating the silent skies.

Joni Stoneberg is a Hidden Valley Lake resident and wife of St. Helena Star Editor Dave Stoneberg.

Editor's Note: In 2011, on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Napa Valley Publishing newspapers asked area residents to submit their memories of the attacks. In honor of the 16th anniversary, we are revisiting some of those powerful essays.

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