Saturday, September 11, 2010
Nine Years Ago, Today...As If It Were Yesterday...
American history pivotted nine years ago today on a beautiful September morning. Like other monumental moments we all have have our answers to "Where were you when...?" I was actually in the World Trade Center on Saturday, September 8, 2001, with my sister-in-law, Marilyn, and two German guests of hers. We had dropped by to visit my favorite Ben & Jerry's in the lower level where I had taken many friends and visitors. I was also at the former World Trade Center site three days after that unthinkable event took place. We were in the city for a pre-planned event. Of course, then we were only able to get within a couple of blocks, but we could see the endless train of trucks driving nonstop in and out of the great gaping hole with load after load after load of debris bound for New Jersey where it would be sifted and sifted again. The sidewalks were all greasy with a thick layer of fine black dust which permeated every window well and shop awning of the former businesses which had been humming with activity just a few short days ago but which now sat boarded and still. And the smell. Nothing could have prepared me for that. We were part of a soundless ghostly procession that shuffled along the street in silent homage while policemen barricaded us from impeding the somber endless work that followed the destruction.
On September 11th, I remember receiving information about the bombing piecemeal. We had no way of getting information into the school except through phone calls. For some miraculous reason Paco had not gone into the city that day (his office was in midtown--perhaps 40 blocks from the World Trade Center), so he became my source. I had to go next door to tell the other librarian who immediately paled and left the school. Her husband's office was across the street from the World Trade Center, and she was afraid he was stuck in a subway which turned out to be true. Another teacher's sister should have been at work in the Twin Towers. She too hurried out to check on her. All day parents came silently and ushered their kidss out, but we could still say nothing and had to act our way through that long long sober day pretending life was normal. That night I glued myself to the TV. We must have received 30 phone calls asking about Paco's status. It's a foggy memory now--most of the other events of that day. But I do remember one poignant moment at the end of the day when I went to lock the front door out of habit. My hand hovered and paused at the absurdity of thinking locks equaled safety.
We struggled through all that. I distracted my tiny students for the next couple of days--making small memorial ribbons to pin to all the library mascot animals and stuffed book characters--talking about good safe things like our parents' love for us, pets--we talked a lot about pets and friends and smells of home and favorite foods.
What I will never forget: the dozens and dozens and dozen of missing person posters plastered all over the the subway station posts under Time Square; someone's touching account of driving past train stations at the end of the day and seeing all the cars still there which would normally have been gone; the personal feature articles in the New York Times for months to follow paying tribute to the victims one by one; a gloomy rainy day we traveled to our church for a memorial service which I think came from Salt Lake; our local firemen standing in the intersections for several weeks collecting donations in buckets; Mayor Guliani soliciting the world to come back to New York by attending Broadway plays: "You can even get tickets to The Producers!"; terror each and every day for months thereafter as Paco took the train back and forth to work; the bomb threat and subsequent closing of the Trenton Station one measly train after the one we were on on September 15th; anthrax discovery in our neighborhood post office and no mail there for months until that was straightened out; the kindnesses and sensitivity that prevailed during that whole experience; the very first time I viewed the new skyline with the gaping hole;
Just pausing today to remember and send out a prayer to all those who hurt especially today.