Thursday, September 8, 2011

One Sunny Day in September

With the ten year anniversary of 9/11 looming, I'd originally planned simply to re-post this entry from last year (which was, itself, a re-post of something I wrote on the seven year anniversary): 

I remember so much about that day:
I was getting ready for work and had the radio on, a little before 8:00 a.m., CST. The DJ's mentioned something about a plane hitting the World Trade Tower and they were watching it on the Today Show. So I turned on the TV, and was watching the video of the first tower. And as I watched, live, I saw the second plane come in, low and slow, and thought, "Oh my God!" And it hit. And I dropped the brush out of my hand and fell on my knees with my mouth open. After about a minute of just staring at the TV with my hand over my mouth, I got up and went to the phone to call my then-husband. He was out of town for work, in Dallas, working at the airport there. He was still asleep, and I woke him up and told him to turn the TV on. Then realized -- his brother was a pilot for AA, and started getting really worried. He didn't think his brother was flying that day, but I told him I'd try to get ahold of him to be sure. I finished getting ready and left the house, got in the car and turned the radio on. I called my then-BIL and was able to get ahold of him. He was home, safe. So that was a relief. On the radio, they were saying that all flights were being grounded, and one or two were unaccounted for. My route took me past the STL airport, and as I drove east toward and past it, I could see the planes all lined up, heading west, coming in one right after the other. And all I could think was, "Get down, birds. Get down." I know that seems weird, but that was what was in my head.

I pulled into my parking garage around the time the Pentagon was hit. I got out of my car and walked toward my office, looking up at the bright blue September sky, which suddenly seemed empty. And, even though it was warm out, I got the chills. The TV was on in the office, of course. And we all just stood around it, watching. We'd try to go to our desks and do some work, but it was futile. My MIL called me in a panic, because she knew my office was located next to the Arch. I told her I was fine, but we'd gotten word they'd be shutting our building down, and we'd be heading back home. Watched in disbelief as the first tower came down. Then the second. Then left and started the drive back home, still in a state of shock.

Just so happens, I was 7 or 8 weeks pregnant at the time. Got home, and there was a message on the machine from my doctor's office, asking me to call them. I did, and they told me there was a problem with my hormone levels, and I was at risk for miscarrying, so I needed to go pick up a prescription. The realization that my husband was likely to be stuck in Dallas for an indefinite period at that point, and I was pretty much on my own, hit and made me feel very much alone. I got in the car and headed to the pharmacy, and remember thinking to myself how odd it was that it, and the grocery stores, and most businesses were still open and carrying on like it was a regular day. I know the people working there weren't FEELING that way -- it just struck me as odd that, even in the face of this evil, awful thing that was unfolding, we were still plodding ahead with our day. I picked up the prescription and read the warnings, which included all sorts of potential awful things that could happen to the baby, including some mutations. THAT freaked me out. So I called the doctor's office and they reassured me it was okay to take the medicine. So I did. And I sat down on the couch and watched the endless coverage, and wondered what kind of a world my child -- assuming he or she would be okay -- would be born into. And I cried.

I was thousands of miles away from the destruction of that day, but I -- just as everyone else -- was profoundly affected by it. And it's easy, almost 7 years later, to forget just how much, to forget all that was lost that day. We can quibble from now until the end of time over what actions since then were appropriate. And I'm sure we will. It is, perhaps, the largest political football of our lives. But we should never, ever, ever forget that day.

But as I walked to lunch today, and looked up at a bright blue September sky not unlike the one I searched for planes -- and later, for answers -- on that sunny day ten years ago, I realized that I have more to say about it than just what I remember.

The other day, Riley surprised me with the following exchange: "Five more days," she mused as we got into the car and headed to the pool. "Five more days 'til what?" I asked. "September 11th," came the reply. (Note: She was off by a day, but I can forgive her that -- my days and dates are all mixed up this week, too.) Surprised that she was bringing it up, I responded, "That's right. Can't believe it's been ten years." After a moment, she said, "I just missed it." I wasn't quite sure what to say to that. Finally, I said, "Well, yes -- you were just an itty-bitty baby in Mommy's belly at that point. know...I'm not so sure it's a bad thing to have missed, Baby. That was a very sad day for us all."

Later that evening, I was still reflecting on the conversation and turned on the Smithsonian's retrospective on 9/11. I thought maybe watching some of it with her might be a good way to help her understand a little better. It wasn't long, though, before the tears welled up in my eyes and spilled down my cheeks. I guess it isn't hard to understand why, but it did suprise me a little -- the power of those emotions as I started reliving them. Riley came over to me and hugged me and patted my back, and I decided to hit "Record" and save it for another time. I'm not sure she's ready for it. Or, really, I'm not sure I'm ready for her to be ready for it. I look into her pretty little eyes and like the fact that they don't look like she's seen too much of the world already.

It's made me reflect on my own perspective -- today versus ten years ago. Much has changed in my life since then and it's hard to say how much of a role the events of that day and its aftermath played in that. I know that it caused me to look at things quite differently -- philosophically, spiritually, politically. I'm glad for that in a lot of ways, sad for it in others.

There's a lot of focus on the remembrance this year -- as there should be. But, honestly, it's hard to look back. To see the photos and the video, hear the audio. To remember the terror and overwhelming sadness of that day. It cuts down deep in a way nothing else I've experienced has. Like a psychic wound. Not just for me, but, I suspect, for most who remember that day.  I think I'm glad that, for now, Riley doesn't really understand that -- and that a sunny day in September, to her, is just that.    

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Susie, I remember growing up and thinking the same of the Vietnam War. I wanted to feel the emotion of the event that shook my parents. Yet, even today I can't grasp the pain of years prior to my own experiences, that I witnessed, no matter how skilled the record is written. I suppose that is for the best otherwise we would be crippled by all the pain humans have lived through. Crying over the sacking of Carthage today seems inappropriate in some way but it is a double edged sword. This human tendency protects us from being miserable all the time but at the same time not teaching the lesson binds us to repeating it. Inevitably we always seem to repeat history unfortunately, lets try not to regarding this tragedy. Stories like this help.