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9/11 musings

September 11, 2009

It’s a wet and dreary day here at the Jersey Shore – the exact opposite of that other 9/11. The famous one.

At that time, I was working in another department, with an office that faced out onto the main mall of the campus. The campus looked serene, as I looked out over the back of the Planetarium, toward the student center.

I’d only recently returned to work after being on maternity leave, and was struggling with the demands of being a mom to two while working.  Mornings were a struggle. It broke my heart to leave my infant everyday, and I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

But it was a beautiful day. The kind of day you dream about. Bright. Blue. Crisp. Perfect.

I was sitting at my desk, gazing over the campus, contemplating my life miseries, when I heard a colleague enter and say, “It’s World War III – they’ve blown up the Towers, and there’s been a crash at the Pentagon in D.C. too.”

I was shocked, thinking it must be a mistake. An accident. How could a plane have flown into the Towers? Into the Pentagon? The world instantly became a scary, unpredictable place within the space of a heart beat.  The beauty of the day betrayed by the ugliness of the world.

My thoughts then went  immediately, overwhelmingly, to my family – my husband and my children, and my separation from them.  I wanted to run to them, hold them, gather them up and bury my face in their little bodies. I wanted to be with them. Suddenly my vision of the world around me included the threat of bombs in my neighborhood and tanks coming down my streets.  It didn’t materialize – but I didn’t know that that day. I thought I’d never see the day that an attack of that kind could be materialized on US soil. I was wrong. It made me wonder what else I was wrong about.

For a few hours I tried calling my parents, who were then living 2 1/2 hours north of me but the lines were all fubar.  My thoughts were racing – dad’s brother worked at the Towers for Port Authority. Was he there? Was he alright?

Later, when I finally could get through my mom told me how my dad, angry and frustrated, was doing the only thing he could – gathering up old work gloves, boots and shoes and clothes to donate to those working at the site.  He felt so helpless and ineffectual and angry. And my uncle? He was luckily sent off to work that day at JFK – so he was no where near the Towers as he normally would have been. Dumb luck.

My mil’s next door neighbor is a stewardess. Her regular flight was the one that went down in a field in Pennsylvania – United Flight 93.  She should have been on the flight that day, but due to some last minute intervention of fate, she wasn’t. Her husband and two children, one a year older than J1 and the other a year younger, were beyond relieved. She was beyond saddened and shaken about her near fate and the fate of her coworkers.

I go to church with a couple who lost their only daughter that day.  She was in her early 20’s.  Lost her life for having the unmitigated gall to go to work that day – along with thousands of others. I see their grief when they look at my children – you can tell that the woman would have been an excellent grandma, she’s so kind and gentle with them, and her husband now plays Santa for our church school kids each year – calling them up as a surprise Santa call we do as a fund raiser.  Each Sunday, he  prays for their daughter, calling out her name when it’s time to pray for those who have passed, never forgetting her.

The world has carried on.  There are changes – some for the better and some for the worse.  But I’ll never forget that day – what I was feeling and seeing and hearing. Wondering  how to explain it to my then four year old son.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 16, 2009 7:27 pm

    I noticed you had no comments to this post. I want to comment that I appreciate you sharing what happened to you and to your family that day, and for remembering the bereaved couple. I lived in MS then, and I knew someone who missed a business trip to the Twin Towers as his mother had died a couple of days before. His colleagues went without him, and they all were killed. I sat weeping with his wife in church that day. Horrible, horrible day, which as a military spouse, changed my life forever. Hugs to you and to all of us.

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