It has been ten years, three children, and a marriage since terror, grief, anger, fear, and an overwhelming helplessness filled me all at once, for the first and only time in my life. There are thousands, maybe tens of thousands or more, posts about September 11, 2001, being written and posted right now. I would be willing to lay a heavy bet that many of them are being written through a blur of tears. This one is.
I searched for awhile for an image or two to insert into this post, and realized that I don’t want any images here except for the one that is in my heart tonight. I avoided all pictures, posts, and media coverage of the memorials today. My memorial is in ten years of September 11ths that have seen my children grow and my life go on, while so many others did not. It is a guilt that I think many of us never admit to when we relive this day every year. I have talked to enough people, been to enough events, and read enough to know that we DO relive it. Sharing the “where were you” stories is our own form of apology to those who did not get to go on, to see their children grow up, to those who did not get to have children, or see grandchildren. We share, and no matter how many years pass, that sharing and reliving will never ease that unspoken guilt that is there. In sharing, though, we also come together again as we did in those days following the attack on us all.
Like everyone reading this, my life changed forever on that morning. I was a workaholic then, already addicted to my life on the web. I happened to be home that morning because my, then, only child had just had his tonsils removed. He was sleeping, I was online chatting with a friend via ICQ and getting together a list of things that had to be done that day during my time away from the office, and planning a party. September 11th is my ex-husband’s birthday. We weren’t married then, and I was excited to be finalizing the first surprise party of my planning for him. It was really a great morning, and a lifetime ago.
During my back and forth on ICQ, I got a message that plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. The person I was talking to worked at a bank in Manhattan. He sent that message and then another right after. I will never get the sight of those words on my screen out of my head. The second message said “Oh God. Do you know how many people are in that building?”. I didn’t know. I didn’t know anything, except that I should go turn on the television.
I surfed news channels until something came up live and began to watch the speculation about the plane, the cause, the possible damage and loss of life. I watched and speculated myself. I got a few more messages from my friend who said he was going to the break room to catch the news and he would keep me posted. The next thirty minutes where the most vivid of my life. They stand out more than my wedding, than giving birth four times. This is no special story, everyone reading this has one, but I have to relive it, too.
I called my father and then I walked into my sunny kitchen, still speculating along with the newscasters, and filled my coffee cup. I was halfway across my living room, eyes on the television, when the second plane came into view. I saw it hit the second tower, live, while I was on the phone. I dropped my coffee cup, hit my knees and said into the phone, “Daddy, what is happening?”. I had not called my father “Daddy” in probably twenty years before that moment, and I have not since. I remember him very slowly saying ” I don’t know.”. Then there was a small hand on my shoulder and a raspy voice in my ear asking me if he could have a popsicle, because his throat hurt very much. He was four then. I hung up the phone and one look at my son told me the truth of what I had not grasped while seeing it happen live. I may have hurt him a little by scooping him up and holding him so tightly while I dissolved into sobs. I know I terrified him. He must have asked if I was okay twenty times before I loosened my grip on him and got a little bit of one on myself. I stood up, my knees soaked in coffee, and took him into the kitchen and away from the television. I remember purposely not looking back then. I had someone to take care of, someone who would ask a million impossible to answer questions about what had happened and why it scared me so much. It happened that way, of course. The rest of the day was spent like many of yours: unending news coverage, a roller coaster of emotions, conversations with friends and relatives and co-workers. We cancelled the party. It was a long time before we had another on his birthday.
As I write, it is already September 11th in New York. My new online friends have been sharing all day. I read their tweets, but didn’t respond to any of them. I read the memorials go by in my timeline and read every word of every one. Each was a reminder that there are children who are now ten or eleven or twelve who do not remember their parent or parents. That there are people who are ten years older and wonder if they might have had a grandchild in the last ten years if not for the day that changed every single life in this country. We all think these things, we all relive. I watched you all do it all day on Twitter and Facebook today.
Try to remember to not only relive, but to live. Really live.