"We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." ~Maya Angelou

Friday, September 16, 2011

My September 11 story

Since this is the tenth anniversary of the September 11th bombings I will jot these memories down because I have forgotten some of them already and might forget more of them. I will never forget them all because my Abbey was there, in D.C. on that day and I feared for her life. No, I will never forget that feeling of helplessness at being so very far away and waiting for word.
       When I was teaching I would always listen to the news during my drive to school so I knew what was happening in the world.  That morning I heard that a plane had flown into the first tower in N.Y. City and that the tower was on fire.  I was about half a mile south of what we call Foster's Corner, driving up north on the road that goes past Pioneer.  At that time everyone thought it was an accident of course.
    By the time I got to school the television in the library was on and showing the pictures and I was standing right there and saw the second plane hit the other tower.  Seeing that plane smash into the building felt to me like an explosion had happened inside me, a bright silent percussive blast.  Every one of us was frozen in place, watching those people running out the doors of both towers and the smoke rising. I thought of the people in the floors above where the planes had hit; there was no way they would be okay, no way, and I thought of their families standing in front of their televisions too, knowing that their husbands, brothers, moms or sons were up there at the top and trapped.
      Finally we all had to go back to class and go on teaching school; we had all those kids there and we had to go on.  I happened to be teaching art that day, out in a portable building so I had no intercom, no telephone, no contact with anyone except the classes as they came and went.  We were talking about the color wheel and which colors were complimentary and which were warm and cool and all that.  I remember standing at the board talking and smiling at the kids and helping them with their drawings while all the while my heart was pounding like mad.  At a break I ran inside and saw that the first tower had fallen straight down upon itself. I couldn't believe it. I thought the people in the second tower would have plenty of time to evacuate and they were trying, and many got out alive but many, many more did not.
    Someone came out to my room and said I had a phone call and could I take it. I went into a classroom that was close by and took the call and it was Danny calling to tell me about the plane that had hit the Pentagon. I remember the feeling of the tears welling up behind my eyes and I looked up at the teacher in the room and seeing her recognizing that something was terribly wrong.  Danny didn't know anything about Abbey then but said he would call back if he heard anything else.  I told that teacher what had happened and then stood in the hall crying and shaking until the class break again. Then I had to go back out to the portable and teach the next class about the color wheel again.
     I was so amazed that I could shut the door on the thought that my daughter might be being blown up by another plane for all I knew, so far away that I could do nothing to help her.  At breaks I would go in and watch the coverage and later on I heard about the plane going down in Pennsylvania, a plane that the news anchors were speculating was supposed to have hit the white house or the Capital. At some point Danny called and told me about talking to Brent on the phone and that Abbey was okay. I don't remember finishing the day, driving home, or anything except walking into the house and stepping into Danny's arms at some point and both of us holding on for dear life.
      I remember sitting in front of the T.V. with Audra for days watching footage of people running down the street covered in ash, or jumping from the windows high up on the building. I remember the couple who jumped hand in hand. We couldn't seem to stop watching; it reminded me so much of when President Kennedy had been shot in sixty three. It was just like that, the constant watching of the news when there was no more news, just speculation and repetition.

No comments: