Monday, September 11, 2006

Where were you when the world changed?

I was dancing with Bud when the first plane hit.

Of course we didn't know it was happening at the time. We were wrapping up a Kindermusik class in a lovely multipurpose room in a quiet church in the woods, physically and psychologically far from the madness unfolding in Manhattan. Bud was not yet two and not yet diagnosed, but already very much himself. We tapped sticks together and danced among our classmates. The others danced in unison, in rhythm with the bouncy melody coming from the CD player. Bud danced on the periphery, in rhythm to a music all his own. I danced between them, to a mash-up of the two, and tried to bridge the distance. We all had a wonderful time.

I had planned the morning carefully. When the class ended, my husband would be waiting in the parking lot and we would bundle Bud into his car so that I could head to the college, to work. It promised to be a busy day. It was the first day of classes, and I was scheduled to start the morning with a rare staff meeting with the college President. I'd have just enough time to get to my office, change from my Kindermusik jeans to my meeting-with-the-President skirt, grab my folders, and head to the conference room.

The plan started off without a hitch. My husband was waiting, and Bud joined him happily. I drove straight to the college and found a parking spot in the first lot I checked. As I walked toward my office I spotted a friend and colleague hurrying across the quad.

"At this rate, I think we better just go directly from Convocation to Commencement and start again next year," she said, rolling her eyes. She looked at my puzzled expression, and explained, "Oh, you haven't heard? It's crazy. A plane flew into the World Trade Center." She said she was headed to the campus center to check out the tv coverage. I pictured a disoriented pilot in a single-engine Cessna, and wondered how he could have made such a horrible miscalculation.

We walked together across campus and as we approached the campus center another colleague came out and said, "There were two planes. Two planes hit the twin towers."

My God, I thought. Something is wrong. There must be a problem with the airspace radar system.

And then, But why would they both hit the same building?

At that moment, a third colleague rushed out of the building and said, "They got the Pentagon."

My mind went blank.

I hurried to my office, my stomach churning and my head spinning. I pulled up Yahoo and read the headline, but the story wouldn't load. I heard my colleagues in the hallway through the pounding in my head, "Def Con 3"... "Pennsylvania"... "other planes"... "terrorism."

As my head began to clear, my brain began searching for local coherence, and I focused intensely on a single issue: Should I still change out of my jeans and into my skirt?

Will we still be meeting? Of course we won't be meeting. Why wouldn't we be meeting? It's not like there's anything we could do. But of course we'll have to do something. No, no. Everything has changed. I don't need the skirt. I should put the skirt on anyway. Maybe I'd better keep my jeans on in case I have to do something. But what would I do? Maybe we should all go home. I can't go home. I have to meet with the President. If I don't change now, I won't have time to do it before the meeting. Should I even go to the meeting? I shouldn't go to the meeting. There won't be a meeting. No one will care what I'm wearing. Maybe I should just keep the jeans on and go to the meeting. No, I should put on the skirt. Just in case. Right?

Then I started to cry, and I don't remember much that happened after that.

I remember that we had a meeting with an entirely different agenda, but I don't remember if the President was there.

I don't remember where I went when the meeting ended.

I don't remember if I was still wearing jeans or if I had changed into the skirt.

But I remember very clearly the fog rising off the lake as I left home on that crisp, clear, almost-autumn morning.

I remember the carefree joy I experienced in my final moments in a world in which some kinds of horror were still unthinkable.

And most of all, when I think of September 11, 2001, I remember dancing with my son.


Anonymous said...

i had a dentist appointment that afternoon- and i was surprised that it wasn't cancelled. it was very surreal, driving to the dentist for something so routine. i remember driving home and seeing an older man standing on an overpass waving a huge flag as hard as he could.

Larry Arnold PhD FRSA said...

A friend phoned me up and told me to turn the TV on and I watched it all incredulos.

That affected me for the whole year, I started my media course just after, and the first video I made was called Abbadon 119 911, Abbadon the angel of the abyss.

Anyway I made another video which contrasted the blitz on Coventry and Churchills words, with 911 and Bushes words (he is no Churchill)

proportionatly in operation moonlight sonata, as a proportion of the total population, a greater proportion of the population was lost in Coventry than in new York and the damage could be seen for decades, well into my lifetime.

Now turn your eyes to Beirut and look at the damage there, or remember the shell torn towns of Flanders in world war 1.

Its all scary, its all evil, I came within a short space of being blown up by the IRA myself the week before the Birmingham Pub Bombings.

ballastexistenz said...

I was stranded in a strange town with no communication device and nobody told me what was going on. I figured it was nuclear war or something and immediately resigned myself to it. But the world did not change for me because I always knew such a thing would happen one day. I was a little startled that people were all being jolted out of senses of safety that I had never had to begin with. I thought it was terrible but it did not alter my view of the general human world -- violent, unpredictable, dangerous, and can kill at any time -- at all.

mumkeepingsane said...

I was sitting on the couch watching tv. Matthew was one year old and Patrick wasn't even born yet. I reached over and grabbed Matthew and hugged him while watching the events unfold on tv. I cried for the children who'd lost their parents. That's what I identified with first. I couldn't imagine having to tell my son that daddy wasn't coming home.

n. said...

My comment was so long I decided I need to put it on my blog. Please see the link at my name.

I will probably make 2 posts, if I can find the poem I wrote on the 1st anniversary.

JenF said...

I was at work. Like you, when hearing of the first plane my hubby assumed cessna like plane - probably a disgruntled employee - I thought 'terrorism' . I don't know why it popped into my head - I had no details. But that was what I thought.

Right after the 2nd plane I called my Mom who lives just 60 miles from Manhatten. She was watching live coverage when that one hit. It was awful for her.

I left early because I needed to hug my boy. Kyle was just a year old. I just remember needing to be with him.

And when I think about that day, I try to remember all of the people that did NOT go to work that day in those towers. All of the empty seats in those planes, and the people that weren't in them - safe, at home instead. And the people on the plane that crashed in PA. The ones that did something.

The Jedi Family of Blogs said...

It was the first week of kindergarten for B & he had just been diagnosed that summer with severe developmental delays (they thought at first that he had CP). I was so preoccupied that morning that I locked my keys in the car when I dropped B off at school. Luckily I was within walking distance of C's office & it was a lovely day for a walk... I first heard what was happening when one of C's partners came out of his office & said that a plane had hit the WTC. It was too surreal to wrap my head around. One of C's nurses gave me a lift back to school with his extra key. When I got home the friend who helps clean our house had the tv going & I first saw the classic footage of the plane hitting the building. I freaked out & turned off the tv. Throughout the day I checked the radio (on the hour, for the news) & cried when the border to Canada was closed (most of my family is in Canada). I worried about 2 cousins who live in NYC & a close college friend of C's who also worked in the city (turns out, in the WTC, but he was late for work that day, thankfully). Our neighbourhood became eerily quiet, since we are just to one side of a flight path & all planes were grounded... The neighbours gathered in the back yards & kept each other company. I just couldn't wait until B & C were home from work. C & I taped Peter Jennings' report all night long, to remember. I already have post-traumatic stress syndrome (from being an incest Survivor) & 9/11 made it much worse. I couldn't fly for 2 years & worried about planes dropping on B's school & C's office for a long time after...

Daisy said...

I remember having a delayed reaction -- bursting into tears while setting up a candle the Friday after, watching our neighborhood cop standing on the corner playing Amazing Grace on his bagpipes. (lump in throat beginning...gotta go.)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the beautiful writing and good cry.
The 9.11 motto is "Never Forget" - but "always remember" dancing with your son.

KAL said...

I really enjoyed reading your post. That day will forever be ingrained in all of us old enough to remember. What a lovely image, though, of you dancing with your son. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I was teaching my 7th grade class when the school secretary came in to tell me that my husband (who works in Manhattan and rode through the trade center every day on the train) had just called to tell me that he was ok. I had no idea what was going on.
"Why wouldn't he be ok?", I asked.
"Then you haven't heard....", she continued.

My family was very lucky. Could see the huge cloud of debris for days from my home. My husband watched the entire thing happen from his office window and the street. He had a lunch meeting scheduled in the Trade Center that day too. I couldn't get in touch with him all day. Thank God he left that message with the secretary. I was worried enough as it was. He couldn't get home for hours. I was so happy to see him when he finally did arrive.

We were in the process of trying to get pregnant with my first child in September 2001. He was conceived the next month. I think about how close I came to losing everything and how if things had happened just an hour before or a couple of hours later.....

Anyway, I try to remember just how lucky my family is. Autism or not. I have my husband and 2 beautiful children. We came so close. When I find myself feeling sorry for my son or for myself....I try to remember that it could have all been gone in a second.

Makes you appreciate every day!