I was married. I was worried about the overdue rent payment. I was walking across campus to work. The air was absolutely silent--except for that radio the groundskeepers were gathered around. He said "yeah, something about a helicopter and the pentagon".
I was living in Las Cruces, NM. The morning was crisp--it was going to be a hot day. But it was fall and football was on and I remembered thinking "These are my favorite kinds of days." The gist of my other thoughts were "Hmmm...how many groundkeepers does it take to mow two blades of grass?"
In the Educational Services building, there was no one outside. Before I entered the building, I could see everyone gathered around the tvs. That's odd. It wasn't registration season and I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to stand around watching streaming class lists cross over a blue screen in unreadable white text. The gist of my other thoughts were "What in the world?? I didn't know we had cable in this building!"
It was just so quiet. Even the birds were silent. Which was saying a lot by that building where I always ducked for fear of being splashed on the way in.
She turned away bleary eyed. I saw a hole in a tower and smoke pouring out. They were talking about a plane. "Huh. That's interesting. I wonder what is going on there?" I thought I'd have to call someone later that day and ask them about the craziness going down in their city. I graduated from Cornell--land of "I'm from New York" smart kids. I was President for two years of my business frat. I knew people in NY. I knew people.
I sat at my desk. Silence for maybe a couple of minutes, then the phones started ringing off the hook. It was recruiting season so almost everyone was out of the office. I was on my way out at the end of the week. The Assistant Director called to say she was stuck in Dallas. Except with her accent, it sounded like she was saying she was stuck in Dulles. My heart dropped.
I could hear the TV in the hall. I wasn't watching it. I looked up to look at something else just in time to see the second plane crash into the tower. I fell back into my seat like a ton of bricks. I thought "What the [really really bad curse word] is going on here?!" And everyone in my office came straight back to me.
"Do you know anyone there?" "Do you have any family?" "Shouldn't you call someone?" "Can you get through?" "Try email instead!"
No one was answering of course. Phones or email. My mind was numb and I couldn't think to know if I knew anyone. My boss made me go home. I started to walk but about halfway home, I saw a familiar car. It was my husband coming to get me. He's from Upstate NY. His dad drives truck, sometimes in the city.
We went home and watched the tv all day long. It was one of the only days ever that I didn't wake up and turn on the Today show as I got ready. I couldn't move from that couch. For like two days.
I remember walking outside tonight 7 years ago, looking up at the sky and asking why.
I remember my first recruitment where the teacher asked me if it was okay if she watched the tv in the back of the room while I talked.
I remember going to the football stadium and feeling so safe among my fellow Americans--not just US Americans (I was in Cruces) but my fellow Americans of every stroke and color.
I remember not having the courage to look at any of the lists of names, then or now. I don't want to know, I cannot know.
I remember years later finding a picture from my first trip to NYC a few years earlier and of course they were part of the skyline--I took an upshot trying to see the top.
Now, I remember last year, and maybe the year before, riding by that hole. Being grotesquely fascinated with it like I can be with scars that take a long time to heal. Completely blocking out any memories of how or why, but instead focusing on what. That hole in the ground.
Now, I remember riding the train from Jersey into that hole.
Now, I remember how I felt connected to the globe back then and I want that feeling back--for good reasons, not for fear.
Now I remember just how important it is for me to get off my [lot less nice word for behind] and do something.
Now I remember. Now I remember.