Is there an app for another couple of days of weekend? I didn’t do laundry. I didn’t scrub floors. I didn’t … you get the picture.
I made a little progress on the garage but only enough to create a path through the chaos. I swept the floors before we had three giggly, wiggly little girls over for Munchkin’s birthday sleepover. HA. Sleep. Puh’Shaw. At 12:30, I came in and started threatening to put children in the crate with the dog if sudden sleep didn’t overtake them! *giggle*
Princess Crybaby has been cranky McMuffin all day. (no, I don’t know why I called her that, Sarah.) She wouldn’t nap but 30 minutes at a time, wasn’t interested in anything I fed her BUT teddy grahams and mandarin oranges. She ate about half a bowl of everything else before she started throwing it on the floor. *sigh*
She scraped her knee yesterday, at Nana’s pool. I swear, this child is as accident prone as…well, me.
Coach is making progress with CC boys. They have a race Friday morning. The greatest part of this is having him (with the exception of a little while Friday night so he can go shoot volleyball) all. weekend. long. We may just turn the phones OFF Saturday and spend time together, as a family, in our pj’s.
Today is the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Flight 93’s crash in that Pennsylvania field. I’ve avoided coverage of the attacks all weekend. Knowing it was on nearly every channel meant I didn’t watch very much TV this weekend.
Yes, I remember the exact moment. I’ve tried (and failed) avoiding re-living it this weekend as my facebook friends go back through the details of those days.
Ok. Here I go. *deep breath*
The Ex and I took an annual trip to his parents’ house, in New Jersey. Historically, we flew because it was faster. Historically, the first day was getting settled and recovering from the flight. The second day of our trip, we always went in to New York City because I am a tourist and, dang it, I love that city. Historically, we took the train from Princeton (I think) into Penn Station. The last time we were in the City, we decided to start the day downtown, at the World Trade Center, so we could see the financial district and all that stuff down there first; then work our way back uptown.
Ok, so that gives you the background up to 2001. That year, we decided to drive – a cross-country road trip. It was a fun trip. We stopped in Nashville for a night, then Washington, D.C. (beautiful hotel) then on to NJ. We were in D.C. on September 9 & 10. September 9 was a Sunday. Monday, September 10, we talked about trying to get a room and stay another day and spending a little more time in D.C. because we didn’t have time to really see/do much. But, wanting to stay on schedule, we decided to go on ahead to NJ. Traffic was so bad headed north, straight out of the city, we looped around in a big circle around the city, bypassing traffic. I snapped a shot of the side of the Pentagon as we drove past. I remember very clearly it was about 9:30 in the morning.
All the way to NJ that day, the Ex was adamant he did NOT want to go into NYC; he was tired of going into the city, it was expensive, boring, etc… We were already planning to drive to Montreal to meet/see his Canadian relatives and he didn’t want to spend an entire day wearing ourselves out (and spending money) in NYC when we could wait and do the same thing in Montreal. He wanted to go ahead and go on to Canada Tuesday morning. I thought he was just being difficult and argumentative so I pouted and bickered. I agreed to let it drop (for the moment).
Very early Tuesday morning arrives and we are still bickering about NYC. I finally give in and agree we should go on to Canada; even though that means we won’t make it into NYC at all this trip (dangit – I SO wanted to see Wall Street). Little did I know all that bickering and finally giving in probably saved our lives.
We get in the car around 7am Tuesday, September 11 and head north. Around 8:40am, I am changing CD’s out and we hear (of all people) Howard “I am the Nastiest person ALIVE” Stern sounding VERY grave on the radio. Immediately sensing something was VERY wrong with this picture, we listen in horror as he recounts how, just two minutes earlier, a plane crashed into the side of the World Trade Center. Was it an accident? How had that happened? We found a roadside gas station a few miles down the road and watched, in HORROR, with the strangers in the gas station as the second plane hit Tower 2. The Ex and I looked at each other and said, “they are going to close the borders.” We jumped back in the car and floored it for the Canadian border.
Sure enough, we were one of the last through the border before the country went on hard lockdown. We listened in terror as the towers fell, listened to the reports of the plane that smashed into the Pentagon and of the downed plane in the Pennsylvania field.
We stayed glued the rest of the day to the television, horrified at the pictures of the falling towers, the people jumping to their deaths, the flames and smoke filling the Manhattan skyline, the firefighters rushing in but not coming back out. It was a horrible day. The entire world was in shock. How could something like this happen in America?
Meanwhile, phones were totally useless. Family here in Texas had no idea where we were. We couldn’t get through to tell them we weren’t in NYC (remember our history). They had to wait in horrible suspense for the phone to ring. When that call finally went through sometime early the next day, I will never forget the sound of my mother’s voice cracking on the phone when she cried in relief we were ok. I wanted to go home NOW.
The next few days were surreal. The borders were closed. We couldn’t leave Canada. So, for the time being, we were supposed to act like normal tourists, enjoying a visit with family members. Sometime on that second day, the people around us, seemingly forgetting two AMERICANS were in earshot, started grandstanding that, yes, the attacks were terrible but, by god, this might teach “them” to stay out of everybody else’s business and the deaths of innocent people “could have been avoided” and “maybe we’d listen” now. I saw red.
Fast forward to Friday. The borders were opening but with extensive security in place. It was quite the experience coming back in the US four days after the attacks – in a Tahoe with Texas plates, no less. The guards were, understandably, skeptical and asked us to pull “over there” for a more thorough inspection.
The day before we came home, I had all our pictures developed and, only then, discovered I’d taken a picture of the side of the Pentagon that was hit almost exactly 24 hours before the attack. The gravity of the realization we probably should have been in Tower 2 when the second plane hit hit me square in the face. The Ex’s stubbornness probably saved our lives.
Driving back along the highway looking across the Hudson at Manhattan was sickening. Where the two Towers once stood, smouldering black clouds hung. Entrances to the city were completely blocked off to all but to emergency personnel. I have a picture from inside the car of the skyline.
Then, I started noticing something amazing. Flags. American Flags. First, here and there. Then, in every window. Every shop, house, car, and flagpole, proudly waved an American flag. There were MILLIONS of them. You couldn’t buy a flag.
We were ready to come home – away from the epicenter. As we drove farther and farther West, we saw fewer flags and, while still sympathetic, fewer shocked/traumatized faces. Getting home, it was almost like nothing had happened. People here were so separated from the events on September 11, it was almost like we were talking about some OTHER country. Another world away from here.
Fast forward 10 years to today. Shock and grief still sucker punch me in the gut when I see images from that awful day. I can’t watch video of the plane flying into Tower 2 or the towers falling, or smoke pouring from the Pentagon or read about those brave passengers on Flight 93 without feeling those sick feelings of shock and sorrow.
If the Ex hadn’t been so adamant about not going into NYC that morning, we could have been there. We could have been injured or killed. No Munchkin. No Princess Crybaby. No second chances. No TISD. It would have been over. We would have been gone.
I now realize why my grandfather never talked about his service in WWII. It’s not that he didn’t want us to know about it but that living through it once was awful enough. He didn’t need to see images of the atrocities of war to relive those things that may have haunted his dreams. He didn’t want to talk about them because they weren’t just nameless American soldiers in a “conflict” that happened a long time ago in a far away place. They were his friends. He could probably see their faces, remember the smells and sounds of battle.
While I do not know any particular person who died in the attacks, I can remember the smell of the air conditioning in the car. The hair that stood up on my neck when we realized what was happening, how time stood still as we watched the towers fall. Smelling the smoke in the air on the drive back into NJ from Canada. How angry I felt as Canadians bashed MY COUNTRY in her darkest hour.
It is enough to write it down and know I don’t have to do it again. The world will let this go a few more years and I can put the memories aside. Give it a few more years to scab over. But, like an injury from which you never fully recover, I have a feeling I will always choke up when I watch the towers fall. Because I was there. I absorbed the grief of those around me. And I lived to tell about it.
For a brief moment, this country was great again. We put aside politics, agendas, manipulation and exploitation to grieve together. For the briefest moments, three horrible hours on a Tuesday morning would burn itself into the American psyche and we were united in a resolve to survive.
Perhaps, we will experience that again – I just hope it doesn’t take another grievous tragedy to bring it about.