Sunday, September 11, 2011

One Decade

Even if we are not all writing about it today, we are thinking about it. Even if we claim we are not thinking about it, we are.

Those of us who experienced September 11, 2001, carry a psychic wound deep inside us. We know where we were when we first heard, where we were when it sank in this was not an accident.

My law partner Scott came to the office some 20 minutes after I did that day and told me he'd have been there sooner but there'd been a plane crash at the World Trade Center. He happened to have a radio in his office and so found a news station. Minutes later he yelled in disbelief as the second plane hit. Then they were saying something about the Pentagon.

By then, I was in Scott's office. We looked at each other. The Pentagon? What the ...?

The first tower came down as Scott and I were driving to my house to get in front of a television set. We both started yelling in disbelief and shock as the radio blared the news. The second tower came down just as we turned on the television, and we yelled again.

Flight 93 had already hit the ground.

Scott's friend, Bob, a New York firefighter, was already dead. His body would later be found in one of the tower stairwells. He died trying to save lives.

My boys were both in school that day. Ben, then a sophomore, spent the day in the same classroom as they suspended the schedule and kept everyone in front of televisions. Sam was at the 5th-6th middle school, and someone decided to keep the story from the students so as not to alarm them. Rumors leaked out all the same, and finally Sam and others learned the story from the gym teacher.

Sam was only 11.

Ben was only 15.

For the next 24 hours, everyone everywhere stayed in front of a television set. Even when I finally slept, I saw the towers peel down in my sleep. The next morning, I snapped the set back on and resumed watching.

Last Friday night I went online and looked at pictures and videos of that day. I was stunned at how much I had already forgotten in a decade.

Two memories I have carried close through this whole decade. The first is the members of Congress addressing the nation that evening from the steps of the Capitol, then singing "God Bless America." Raggedy at first, they finished strong. When I saw it ten years ago, I burst into tears. When I saw it again Friday night, I wept anew.

The other memory is that of Sam creeping into the television room early on the 12th while I watched international coverage. The story was delivered in French; the footage showed military boats racing across the water. Sam watched intently, then turned and asked "are they coming to bomb us too?" When I said no, that was a French story about the US military response, tears trickled down Sam's cheeks and I hugged him hard, my tears falling on his head.

My life has changed in innumerable ways, so very many of them for the better, since that terrible day. Our country has changed in innumerable ways, not all of them good, since that terrible day.

My boys are now grown, now 2500 miles away. If something of this magnitude happens again, I will send my swiftest prayers and hopes to their sides.

If something of this magnitude happens again, I will send my swiftest prayers and hopes to this country.

It has already been a decade.

It has already been a lifetime.

It has only been since yesterday.


Sharon said...

haven't stopped thinking about it had changed my life forever....

Frances Hamilton said...

10 years ago seems a life time, and a look back at a life that is so different from what is today. I most vividly remember sitting on the front porch with Ruth as we ran up the sidewalk to great Audrey and Marie as they returned home from school. It was a different kind of welcome home hug that day.

Anonymous said...

Your recollection of the members of our Congress singing brought to mind a reading I went to a week after Sept. 11. Garrison Keillor's reading had to be moved to a larger venue because of all the people who wanted to attend. There, gathered in an old theatre, he lead the crowd of strangers in a rendition of "God Bless America". We held hands and sang along and I felt the strongest sense of being an American.

see you there! said...

Ten years has passed so quickly, it seems only yesterday. Certainly I remember and still have a heavy heart when I think of those who lost their lives.