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Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11: It's a Date


I still cringe a bit inside when I see the time read 9:11 on the digital clock atop my nightstand. Those two simple numbers said together carry a heavy weight.

Will September 11 ever just be a date again?

We lived in Chicago on that fateful date seven years ago. Mac Daddy had just left for work while I was leisurely waking up to the radio left on in our bathroom. I was relishing my loafing time between a graduate school residency and the upcoming last semester of school. I had planned on spending the day strolling along Lake Michigan with a mug of coffee and the Poisonwood Bible tucked in my tote bag.

Then the frantic voices of newscasters interrupted Katrina and the Waves.

World Trade Center. Towers. Plane. Crash. Terrorists. Pentagon. Crash. Pennsylvania. Collapse. The words hammered through the airwaves like cymbals thrashing right in my ear. My brain was incapable of stringing it all together to make any sense.

I bolted out of bed and flipped on the TV. I feverishly tried to reach Mac Daddy. He had taken the subway to work. On Michigan Avenue. In the Wrigley Building. A Chicago landmark. All cell service was dead.

It would be over four hours before I heard his calming voice telling me he was coming home. By cab.

Nine hours later, I was still planted upright with stoic posture in front of the TV. Trying to reach our New York friends was futile. We worried most for our old friend Tony who worked in the American Express building on the World Trade Center campus. Tony's penchant for the last minute might have saved him that day. Turns out he was home downloading music for his stint in cubicle city so he hightailed it to work in a cab instead of taking his usual subway route. The route that dropped him him off at the World Trade Center stop.

I believed in god the moment we heard from a very shaken Tony. And then I prayed. To whom, I do not know. But I felt lost, shaken, frightened, and keenly aware of a new world order. It was then that Mac Daddy and I decided to move somewhere inconsequential. Not out of fear or paranoia; we simply wanted a hassle-free, idyllic life.

Another friend lost colleagues and friends in the Pentagon that day. He was spared, a life saved to live up to his future promise.

We had an impromptu candlelight vigil on our street that night. Children, students, black, white, young, old, liberals, conservatives, Catholics, Unitarians, trash collectors, bankers, urban natives, farmland transplants. We lined the street in silence. Simply being together with the hopeful faces of children was comfort among us. The silence deafening. Children started a chorus of America the Beautiful. All the grade school patriotic standbys followed. Firefighters and EMTs drove by, sirens silenced, flags raised, hats off. We cheered for the brethren of rescuers that night. Turns out super heroes don't wear tights.

I remember landing in New York a couple years later. The emptiness left by the Twin Towers was surreal. It seemed like a limb had been amputated from an otherwise pulsing city. Those towers grace the pages of many family photo albums. Those towers take center stage in many books and puzzles lining our shelves. It's almost a trick to the eye to gaze at the skyline now.

And so today, we've been listening to Woody Guthrie singing This Land is Your Land. Deal doesn't understand its significance, but I do.
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4 comments:

chris said...

I make a point to teach this very important day to my students...

gphd said...

I had the boys wear red, white and blue. I was pregnant and still in bed when a friend called and told me to turn on the news. Not a feeling I can describe in words.

The Over-Thinker said...

I still can't believe it.

landismom said...

I remember the first time we drove to NYC to visit my MIL, a few weeks after the attacks. The hole in the skyline was deafening.