Remembering 9-11-2001

I heard the news. 

That morning will always be very clear in my memory.  I had just dropped our son off at preschool, and was headed to the gym.  I liked to work out in the water, as my six months pregnant bulk was never comfortable.  I turned on the car radio and heard the anouncers discussing a plane wreck.  It sounded like breaking news, and caught my attention.  Two planes, each flown straight into the twin towers in New York.  The female announcer suggested it might be terrorists.  They’d keep the listeners posted, but in the mean time there’d be music.

I slowed to a stop at a red light, and the music began to fill the car.  The baby was kicking.

The anouncers came back on.  Two more planes had gone down.  One in Pennsylvania somewhere, one into the Pentagon.  The President was being moved to a bunker, and air traffic was being grounded. 

My nerves tingled with instant fear.  My husband’s office was downtown, in D.C., just two blocks from the White House.  He had left for work that morning early-ish, but I knew he always changed buses at the Pentagon.  My heart felt swollen in my chest.

We gathered close.

I turned my car around and headed back to my son’s school.  I didn’t know what I should do, but I had to be close at hand to my son.  I pulled into the parking lot to see other moms doing the same.  We didn’t get the kids, not yet.  We just stood in tight, quiet groups, and talked. 

I tried my husband on my cell phone several times but got no answer.  When did the plane hit the Pentagon?  When had he changed buses?  Were there anymore planes in the air, and would there be a direct attack on D.C.?  The questions jumped around in my mind, like shadows leaping out at night.  Mostly I felt scared, and worried for all the people who’d be hurt.  We had many good friends who worked on Capital Hill or in the Pentagon.  Were they okay?

I started calling family, looking for a long-distance hand to hold.  They were glad to hear from me, wanted to know if my husband was okay.  We talked until my hubby called.  He knew I’d be worried.  Yes, he was fine.  The office was a bit disrupted-they had some people from out of town who had lost flights home.  He’d be in touch.

We got off quickly, knowing that the airways were needed for other people’s calls.  Several parents were picking up their kids.  I decided to take my son home.

We waited.

I fixed my son an early lunch and snuck into the family room to see what they had on tv.  My mind has an imprint of two fast moving dots speeding toward the towers.  The silent puncture of the buildings-then the explosion, like the exit of a bullet, out the back of the towers.  They stand-unbelievably okay-then they fall, more like soda cans crumpling than the swaying fall of a Janga tower.

How much of that I saw that day, and how much my mind has filled in I’ll never know.  I sat in front of the screen, feeling a grip around my throat that squeezed off my air supply.  My son came in.  I hugged him, needing to hold him.  He wanted to know what I was watching.  I tried to explain, in simple terms, and prepared him for the possibility that friends might have been hurt.  He asked if Daddy was okay.  Yes, but I wasn’t sure when he’d be getting home.  We said a prayer together.

I turned off the tv, but had a hard time staying away.  I remember snapshots of scenes.  People seperated and upset.  Firemen and volunteers seen through the haze of dirty air.  Praying, as I watched, that they would find all the people trapped in the debris. 

My memories are not clear.  I do remember a long, stretched feeling of holding on.  Waiting for news.  Waiting to hear if all the planes were accounted for.  Waiting for my husband to come home.

Late that night he got in.  It had taken hours for him to get out of the city-at one point I thought he might have to spend the night.  I was so thankful when he walked in the door, safe and sound.  We gathered together, so grateful to be close as a family.

We look back.

In the days that followed I noticed my son doing something different with his Legos.  He built tall, flat-topped buildings, but on the roof he placed some kind of swiveling contraption.  I asked him what it was.  “A gun,” he said.  “To shoot the airplanes that fall from the sky.”

I called my mom, worried over this new ‘game’.  Was it normal?  Should I try to stop him?  Let him be, she said.  He wanted to protect himself from something dangerous, and was doing so as best he knew how.  My son moved on in his play over the weeks to come.  But I think of those little Lego towers now, five years later, as I keep an eye on the news across the sea.  My brother is serving in Iraq, his second tour, so any war headlines catch my eye.   

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