I was still home. Recently back from maternity leave (and suffering from more than a little postpartum something or other), I was sitting on our bed, pumping breast milk for my son before heading into the city for a meeting. I turned on the news to check weather etc., trying to figure out which of the three things in my wardrobe that fit would be best to wear. They were reporting that a small plane had hit one of the towers...there was some smoke, but they said it was likely a private plane, an accident. Maybe because my dad flew small planes when I was a kid, I thought, "you would have to be an idiot to accidentally hit a skyscraper, maybe the pilot had a heart attack or something - sad - but damn...I bet there will be delays and the city will be a nightmare today"...I feel so bad that that was my reaction...so selfish.
Then, of course, the TV showed the second plane hit, live, and for a crazy second I thought, "wow - what a horrible coincidence...is there a problem with air traffic control??"...
I ran and told my husband (who would normally be at work downtown, but the kids had a pediatrician appointment and I'd asked him to go in late so I could make my meeting; he couldn't get back into his office for quite a bit after) to turn on the TV. Then I called my parents, in an earlier time zone, and told them to turn on the TV, that we were ok. I remember my mom saying, "oh, God...we're going to war over this". She was right, of course.
Because denial was part of the equation, I called my boss to ask if the meeting was still on (!) and she was freaking out...colleagues (not people I worked with closely) had been on one of the planes and people in our office (a high floor of a building adjacent to Grand Central, so that was a concern too) had kids at a church preschool down by the towers (the kids were ok) and they couldn't get through, of course, and for some reason there was no way for them to get TV or radio and I remember putting on WNYC and they listened over speaker phone for a long time.
Later, after the towers fell, we went and got our oldest from preschool. I regret that the TV was on for a long time before we realized our son was seeing the horrible images on a loop. We were sort of hypnotized watching... At some point, I ran into my town... not sure what I was thinking, but I bought emergency supplies, like for a blizzard. A stranger asked what she should buy and I told her what I was buying and she said she would do the same...she was so afraid. I saw a friend who had made it back from downtown...she worked at the towers but had been running late...she hadn't gotten to work yet, thankfully. She was so shaken but was buying food for all the strangers who had followed her home...people who didn't even live in NJ but ended up here just to get out. While I was in the store, people were either kind of zoned out or panicky and were exclaiming, "they just bombed the Sears Tower" and all the other rumors that were circulating. I ran to the bank and withdrew cash then went and got gas...for what? Where would we go?
I couldn't sit still at home, so we all packed up and went to donate blood with so many others. We waited for a few hours, sure that we would help save lives. If only.
Later, I was so aware of the quiet...no planes. And the blue, blue perfect sky, marred only by the smell of smoke, but more than smoke...
That evening neighbors came out into the street...was it that night we lit candles? I can't remember. People gathered and were kind, seeking connection and trying to process.
I feel guilty for feeling so sad when nothing actually happened to me. Sure, I know people who lost someone, preschool parents were lost, but we were ok. I do know that i changed my life partly because of that day...quit the law and became a doula, sort of a rebirth, but if I could turn back time, I would.
I hope you are with people you love, doing something you love today. Remembering however feels right. Maybe it will be another beautiful blue sky day.