Ten years ago.
It's amazing how our minds can retain such tiny details of the where-were-you variety. I remember the almost achingly beautiful blue-skied September day outside of Washington, DC. It was my first child-free day in eight years. I had just dropped off Sam for his first-ever day of preschool and (for some reason, on this first day of freedom) had scheduled a yearly doctor's exam. In the parking lot of the ob/gyn, I heard the first reports of the 1st plane on the radio. At that point, they still weren't sure what was going on & I remember thinking, oh! those people in the plane and the building!, and sending up a silent prayer.
By the time I got in to the doctor's office, the second plane had hit. Then while I was there, a plane hit the Pentagon a few miles away. The mood in the office was tense and quiet. Two women frantically called their husbands, who worked in the Pentagon. Everyone was on their cell phones. Greg worked at a law firm just north and east of the White House and heard all sorts of rumors as he tried to figure out how to get out of the city, including an announcement on the PA system in his building that a plane was headed their direction & to evacuate immediately. He ended up walking through DC, then eventually catching a metro home.
I thought I had protected our kids (then ages 3-8) from the brunt of the terrifying images and news. But that night I took Maddy with me to the grocery store. It was deserted. Maddy noticed and said sadly "there's nobody here. Did everyone die today, Mom?"
I feel conflicted writing this. We were not directly affected and I know there are hundreds of people who have experienced prolonged sorrow from the events of 9/11. I hope that our collective memories and attention on this day give comfort and love rather than bring back pain for all those who lost somebody.
One of my kids said [once] when we were talking about this, "I remember feeling so loved that day. Everyone who knew us called to check on us [which is true, even people we hadn't heard from in years managed to find us and make sure we were okay]. I felt so surrounded by love." It reminded me of this Anne Frank quote I have always loved and that surfaced in my mind on that day [ten] years ago:
"It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness...And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more...It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart."
[Originally posted here. I still feel the same way.]
p.s. New York magazine has had some wonderful coverage including the kindergarten class of PS 150's recounting of their memories and a powerful and heartbreaking slideshow of missing persons posters.