Do not expect poetry here, cunningly crafted words catching images and feelings well. This is still awkward and raw for me to write – to think – about. I’ve tried. If the power of what is my mind could be said in words, it would be too awful to read.
I remember it was such a beautiful day – unusually beautiful for Toledo, Ohio, which normally even at its best is drab and smoggy. But it was clear and the sky was blue, and the sun was bright through the living room windows.
My daughter was just past a year old, playing and babbling about the house. She’d slept through the night. My husband was at work – the first day at his first nursing job. He’d just graduated in June and passed his boards earlier that summer. MCO – it was MCO then, not MUO. A level 1 trauma center.
I had house work to do, and was puttering around doing it, listening to NPR. I had to ring our insurance agent about disability insurance, since with the new job we’d be able to afford it. I remember thinking “What’s her problem?” when his secretary answered the phone and sounded so so strange. She put me on hold, and it wasn’t the hold music – it was a news broadcast. NPR was still playing their normal morning program, so it must have been very early.
It took me a few minutes to realize what the news broad cast was saying, and what it meant. Planes in New York crashing into buildings. I hung up on the insurance agent. NPR was still just the normal morning programming.
I remember picking up my daughter, my baby, and walking with her. Just walking back and forth across the tiny living room of our one bedroom apartment. Turning on the computer to try and find some news to read — I’d never looked at news online before that day. I’ve read CNN online every day since.
Not much later my husband called from work. He didn’t want me to listen to the radio, read the news — he wanted to protect my normalcy for a while longer, but it was already too late. He told me he might not be coming home. MCO was a level one trauma center, and they had gone on full alert and staffing, ready to receive a possible influx of patients from New York. People were still estimating that tens of thousands were involved, would die, would be rescued, would need medical care. People were being called in from days off, from vacations, non critical patients were being discharged to other hospitals.
By the end of the day though the towers had come down, and there were frighteningly few injured people drifting into NYC hospitals. MCO went off their full alert, and let people go home though everyone was warned to stay available. I remember thinking for a split second how good it was that there were so few injuries, before realizing that it didn’t mean people were safe. It meant people were dead.
I remember not knowing where my father was. He lives abroad, but he worked for Eastman Kodak then, and they had a group that he worked with in the South Tower. And I knew he was the US that day, though I wasn’t sure where. I wouldn’t know for about three days, until he finally got in touch with my sister in Rhode Island and let her know he was fine, and she let us know. He had been in California, and it hadn’t occured to him we wouldn’t know, that we would worry. He’d been in NYC a few days earlier.
I remember the taxi driver. It was about one that afternoon – I’d talked with my husband, checked the news, listened to the radio. The Bee had nursed, napped, fussed. She wanted to be down and playing, I wanted to hold her and never let her go. So I called a taxi to take me to my mothers house, where there was more space, different toys, a television for watching the news. Eventually there would be my mother and brother.
The taxi driver knew. I knew. And we didn’t talk about it. Not a word. He commented that normally he had the radio on, apologized for not having music. I mentioned the weather, what a pretty day it was, and how clear the sky. We both noticed that there were no other cars to be seen. He complimented the baby. I thanked him. I mentioned I was going to my mother’s house. He asked what she did. “A teacher. Grade school.” Then we were there.
I remember the sky, that day and in the days afterwards. Such a blue. So clear, so empty. A sky owned by the birds and the clouds and the sun. I remember that the only time I cried was thinking about that sky – about how I was seeing a sky that had never been in my life, and might never be again, and about how that rare gift was borne out of this thing, this attack. This horror.
And I remember this – not from that day, but from later, the first night of the first attack against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Before we went to the wrong war for the wrong reasons. I remember watched the lights of rockets over Kabul (we were at a retirement party for a friend), and being filled with a fierce and terrible joy at going to war.
Those two things I remember. The sky owned by birds, and that fierce terrible joy.
bumped for 2009. I move this post up every year, and will do so until I have the voice and heart to write a new one. For now, I can say it no better then I first said in 2006.
Anna, you wrote about the sky, and I wrote about the moon and the stars. There’s little else to take comfort in —
Your post is so beautifully-written –
I remember most from that day my alarm clock going off. I groggily heard that planes had crashed into some building, and I hit snooze, thinking about what poor country must be deadling with this. Never once did I think it was ours. I didn’t realize until I got up 15 minutes later and turned on the local news. I walked around in shock for at least the rest of the day. Here via Michele’s…
That morning, even one state removed, I felt a bit isolated from the rest of the country – it was as if we were alone in a little island of horror while life could go on as long as the mass media stayed turned off. There were no grey smoke filled skies. And yet, when I read posts like yours I’m reminded what I even knew outside my grief then, this attack injured us all in some way.
Beautifully written, Anna. Enough said.