Has it really been 8 years already? Such a long time and such a short time....either way, the shock hasn't faded.
8 years ago today, we were brand new homeowners having moved into our home less than 2 months prior. James was with us and he was an affectionate, chubby cheeked, 17 month old toddler. Joseph was "in the works" while Camille and Julia weren't even thoughts in my head. We had Ruso the Cat, Page the Bulldog, very little furniture, and we drove a trusty little 4-door Saturn. Our first big purchases were a gas grill, a backyard table, and chairs to match. We were grin-from-ear-to-ear proud of our little home....despite the overgrown shrubs that surrounded the property...despite the orangey-brown shag carpet that covered the living room floor....despite the peel and stick linoleum tiles in the dining room. It was our home.
Once we moved in, I became entirely focused on one purpose...making this OUR home. While Jack was at work, I spent my entire day taking care of James and righting the wrongs of the previous house owner. Make breakfast, trim a shrub, put baby down for his nap, rip out the carpet, make lunch, trim a shrub, make supper, put baby to bed, bag up the dirty old carpet, fall into bed. That might be the longest span of time I've ever gone without watching tv. For background noise, I listened to the radio. It stayed on all day to keep us company and provide some distraction from the dirty work at hand.
So that's how I heard the news.
I vaguely remember standing in my bedroom and folding clothes when I heard the man on the radio mention an airplane. It hit a building in the city. A small airplane? 2 or 3 people on a charter flight? Oh that's terrible...maybe the pilot had a heart attack and lost control. I might have gone back to my folding while making a mental note to watch the news later and find out what happened. And then he said there was another one. And they weren't charter flights, they were full size passenger jets carrying hundreds of people.
And they hit the Towers.
Then there was the Pentagon.
And an open field in Pennsylvania.
The frantic phone calls started. I don't know how long it took to finally hear Jack's voice on the other end of the line, but it seemed like an eternity. The cell phone signals were having difficulty, so I know it took repeated calls. I desperately wanted to keep him on the line until he was safe at home, but that wasn't possible. Please please come home. Please. I'm begging you. As soon as we hung up, my phone rang. What's going on?! Where are you?! Is Jack okay?! Are you okay?! JD, my sister in California, and I were on the phone when the first tower fell. Oh my god. It's gone. It's gone. All those people are gone!!! We still might have been on the phone when the second one went down...I don't exactly know.
The following days are somewhat of a blur. I do remember sitting in the living room, in the brown recliner, for hours on end....unable to tear my eyes away from the tv. My heart broke every day when I opened the newspaper and saw those faces staring back at me...the faces of people who would never again make it home. The tears fell when I watched the news and saw friends and family members walking the streets, posting "Missing" flyers. Their desperation was palpable. Maybe she was injured and she's in the hospital and can't tell anyone her name! Maybe he lost his cell phone and can't remember how to contact us! Sadly, most of those people kept searching until the coroner finally called to deliver the news.
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Fast forward to one year later. James was 2 1/2 years old and Joseph was 4 months old. I was also babysitting my friend's two little ones...ages 3 and 1. Thank heaven the kids were here. They kept me busy and kept the fear from choking me. Fear of what? I'm not entirely sure. The morning started out the same as always, except there was one difference. It was the first anniversary of the attacks. I couldn't shake the lump in my throat and the knot in my stomach. When Jack picked up his things to leave for work, I begged him, "Please stay home. What if it happens again?! Please call work and say you're staying home. Please!" He tried to comfort me....he said he had to go and that everything would be fine and he'd be home later. When the kids were occupied later in the morning, I called my parents while I hid in the bathroom and cried. My father was helpless and stunned. "I don't know what to say...I'm going to give the phone to your mother." Mom didn't know what to do, either. Where was this coming from? I still don't know. Had I spent too much time reading the stories...watching the reports? Was I just now experiencing the fear that so many had felt immediately? Was this the sort of panic that had caused some people to quit their jobs, pack up their lives, and move to other parts of the country? I haven't figured out what happened on that anniversary....other than I've never been that terrified in my whole life.
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Trust me, I know there will be no shortage of 9-11 news coverage, stories, editorials, memorials, and personal accounts. Living a short 30 minutes from Ground Zero means I've come to expect this barrage of information every year. I wonder if the rest of the country gets this much coverage every September. Are we saturated with it simply because all of the attacks happened here on the East coast? Better yet, do I need to add my 2 cents to the conversation? Probably not. But we all have a story related to that day....what's your story? Where were you?
Please don't take this to be a complaint. On the contrary, I'm thankful for the reminder....just in case the horror slipped my mind. For those of us who didn't lose anyone in the attacks, it's fairly easy to let the memory fade a bit. To pretend that life is normal. To carry on. The purpose of all this coverage is to jolt me out of my comfort zone. Somewhere nearby, there's a wife without a husband. And a closet full of clothes she can't part with. There's a boy without his mother. He's heartbroken to realize that as the years pass, his tenuous memories fade. There are elderly parents who lost their only daughter. And when she died, so did their dream of becoming grandparents. There's a group of friends without their "leader".....the one who always planned the get-togethers. There's a firefighter who was lucky enough to escape, but whose body is too broken to perform the job he loves. Maybe I didn't lose anyone important to me, but many people did. And for that single reason, I'm glad to be reminded that their life will never again be normal. I can afford to spend one day every year respecting the heartache and pain of others.