Never Forget the Stories…or the Strength
For the past seven years since I’ve had the blog, I’ve reposted this story (or a version of it — it gets edited and updated every year) on 9/11.
Because we all have our stories from that horrific day, and despite how much we’d like, we can’t make them change.
And because as the years fly by, it’s important to remember not only how things changed that day, but how we changed as well.
18 years ago at this time I was trying desperately to get another hour of sleep.
My 4 month old had had a fussy night, and my husband had woken me up at 4:30 a.m. to say a quick goodbye.
He was going to NYC for a business meeting, had to catch a 6 a.m. flight, and was in such a rush that he remembers — crushingly — not going in to give our 5-year-old his usual kiss on her sleeping head.
A few hours later, as I was still awake and praying to the sleeping baby gods, the phone rang.
I ignored it.
The machine picked up and since I had it on silent (like any new mama does), I couldn’t hear the message.
It rang again. Good grief! I thought. If that wakes up the baby I’m gonna be so pissed.
It didn’t. I let it go to machine again.
Three minutes later, it rang again. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.
I grabbed the cordless phone and ran downstairs so the baby wouldn’t wake up, cursing whoever was on the other end.
It was my husband.
A quick, confused glance at the clock. Wasn’t he supposed to be on a plane?
I could hear the panic in his voice as he quickly assured me, I’m okay.
What? What do you mean you’re okay? I whispered in a panic.
My heart started to hammer, imagining the terrifying scenario he was about to tell me.
I couldn’t possibly have imagined the magnitude of it.
He asked if I’d been watching the news.
Uh, no. Unless it’s a yellow talking sponge or a small Spanish speaking girl, you know that’s a silly question to ask me, is what I wanted to say.
No! No! What’s happening? I whisper screamed.
He told me a plane had flown into the World Trade Center and so they had to ground all flights in the entire country.
He was calling me from Detroit.
Wait…what?? An actual plane? Oh my god! I remember saying. How horrible! Like a small private plane that went out of control??
The last innocent thoughts I had that day…and maybe the last innocent thoughts I’d really ever have for years.
Over the next few minutes, I’d sit on my bed, hands covering my eyes and mouth as I watched the second tower fall – live – and listen to the horror filled voices of the news crews.
Over the next few hours I’d flit around my house with no purpose, holding my girls, crying and shaking and not knowing if I should put my kindergartner on the school bus and send her to her public school (I did not).
I’d wait anxiously for every call from my husband, chronicling his excruciatingly long and fearful drive home from Detroit.
I’d wonder what was about to happen next, because suddenly the rural Minnesota town I lived in didn’t feel secure.
Fearful. To rent a car. To send your child to school. To drive across two states. To make the drive to your friends’ house for dinner because you couldn’t bear eating alone. To put your children to bed. To wonder if a bomb was suddenly going to be dropped on your small farm town with a population of 5,000.
18 years ago we all became a lot more fearful.
And then as the years went on, a little less.
But I can still remember the sickness and horror I felt knowing that my husband was on a plane to NYC that very morning, but the overwhelming gratefulness that, unlike so many others who woke up and got on a plane to NYC that morning, he was coming home.
We all have our stories, don’t we?
And regardless of how intense or how dramatic they might be, every story is not only powerful, but powerfully personal.
I was talking to my 18 year old about the events of the day a while back — the one who was 4 months old on September 11, 2001 — when I realized something.
She doesn’t remember.
She doesn’t know anything other than colored terror codes, not being allowed through airport security unless you have a ticket, and a world where it’s possible for buildings to fall.
She doesn’t have a before and an after.
Does that make her lucky or terribly unfortunate?
I can’t decide.
Things change in 18 years.
People move on.
Babies are born.
Towers get rebuilt.
But our stories, all of our stories, remain the same.
As does the hope … and the strength.
*This post is an edited and updated version of one originally posted on September 11, 2012.
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