The Hub and I started dating in the Spring of 2001. I was back in school full-time after several years spent reeling in the knowledge of my M.S. diagnosis, and I was emerging from my hole and back into the daylight of friendships and laughter and the warmth of a life well-lived.
The Today show is on a time delay here in the square states in the center of the country, and all was normal as I popped on the TV, started the coffee maker and jumped in the shower on Sept 11. By the time I emerged, combing fingers through my wet hair to see what the weatherman had to say about what I should wear that day, the story of a nation had been entirely altered – and it was unfolding on my TV. As I strained to understand why one of the World Trade Center towers was in flames, the second plane slammed, very purposefully as the world watched, into the second tower. I sank to the floor in front of my tiny TV, totally in shock.
As the events of the rest of the day unfolded, I, like the rest of the country was unsure of what would happen next. I thought I should go to school. But there were rumors that universities might me targets. I went, and I parked my car in the large parking structure on campus. But would that be a target? I moved my car.
I went into the lecture hall for my first class – the a/v equipment stack in every room hummed, tuned to CNN as reports and speculation continued to pile up. My mind worked to fill in hypothetical blanks. What if there were attackers on campuses across America, ready to set off bombs, or start shooting, starting a new wave of attacks?
I ended up spending several hours with my back against a concrete retaining wall out on the main Quad, before going home to hide and to watch more coverage.
The next day was traditionally the day of the week that found a group of my friends gathered at the local watering hole for happy hour, and I didn’t want to cancel because by then I longed to see the faces of as many people that I loved as I could. So we sat, pints of Guinness in front of us, watching the news coverage continue on the large screens usually reserved for various sporting events. The bar was actually almost full – but it was completely quiet. I remember thinking that we would never laugh again.
And I remember the first time The (future) Hub flew after that day – how I held my breath until he called to say he was safely there. And the first time I flew after that – back when I wasn’t so great at flying under the best circumstances and this pushed me into full on head-spinning, stomach clutching panic.
I don’t remember when exactly the feeling of being not safe all the time started to fade. I do know that when I think about that day, that time, and where we really are now, I can get back to that feeling of guarded panic very quickly. Or when I think of the first flight we will take with Cooper to Texas shortly, or when I see the children who lost parents that day – my breath gets short, my mind races, and part of me wants to be holding Cooper in my arms and back up against that wall on campus where (for some reason) I felt safe on that horribly unsafe, life altering day.
It was easily the most faith-testing single event of my life. I know my son will study it in school, and I know that we will talk about it at home. I don’t want to hide from it, but I am not certain I have the words to truly tell him what happened and what changed for all of us that day. It has been 10 years – but when I look at the pictures on the TV screen from that day, I blink and I am back, sitting on the floor of my single-girl condo, and it is all beginning to unfold again…. maybe not fresh on the surface, but still so, so very close in the collective psyche of our country.
Cooper will never live in the world that existed before that day…. but I don’t know if those of us who lived through that day will ever completely live in the world that emerged after it.