I was in Canada.
I’d worked late the night before so I was sleeping. My good friend, Tom, called me when he heard. He knew I’d spent most of my life in the States. All he said was “Turn on the tv. Something happened. You’ll want to call your family.”
The house was empty. Kevin was at work. I thought for a sickening moment that it was another bad earthquake in San Francisco or Los Angeles. I debated for a moment not turning the tv on.
I remember thinking ‘It must be bad. Someone will call me if anyone I know was hurt.’ I just stood there looking at the gray tv screen with the remote in my hand, trying to brace myself.
I remember thinking ‘Its so quiet.’ I could hear a meadowlark across the field. It was so beautiful. The morning sun. The smell of flowers from the open kitchen window.
I remember wanting to put it off. Turn around and walk out the door and get in my truck and drive up into the mountains and not see it. Whatever it was, Tom sounded shaken. He’s a big tough ex bull rider. Whatever it was it was bad.
I remember standing there with the phone in one hand and the remote in the other. I jumped when the phone rang again. It was Kevin. I remember thinking ‘Why is he calling?’ but I knew it was something to do with Tom’s phone call. Kevin worked a Wagner machine. It can clear off a logging truck load with one bite. It’s gigantic. Why wasn’t he in his machine. What happened that could make him get out of his machine and go to the office to call me. He asked me if I had the TV on. I said no. He asked me where my brothers were. I turned the TV on.
I remember standing there watching the first tower burning and Kevin asking me if I wanted him to come home. I said no but I wanted him to come home.
I will always remember that morning. I answered the phone that kept ringing and said ‘Yes. It’s terrible. No, my brothers are all in California. Yes, I’m watching.’ I was watching. I watched all those terrified, running people. I watched the smoke and flames. I watched the World Trade Center burning. I watched a plane hit the second tower and I kept watching. And then I just couldn’t bear it. I turned off the TV and the phone and I went and sat on the front porch.
I sat and cried. I cried until I was sick. I cried to wash out the images of people falling, jumping, burning. I cried as if it mattered. As if it were my job. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. And then I sat on the porch and the sky was so blue. It was so beautiful. I was numb. My face felt stiff from drying tears. I knew I had to go back in and turn on the phone. I had to turn on the TV. I had to. It was the only thing I could do for those people. Watch and remember.
And I remember. I’ll never forget.