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Sept. 11

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.


8 thoughts on “Sept. 11

  1. I was living in Italy, my sister was living in New York. The saving grace was I was on the phone to her when it happened so I knew she was OK..in fact, I had my tv on and knew what was happening before she did..she was saying I can’t hear you with all these sirens..I said find a tv and turn it on..we can never forget x


    • You were so lucky to have been speaking with her. I have a friend who waited for 2 days before her brother was able to get through to tell her he was alright. Some of the images of that day will live with me. Too right. We can never forget.


  2. That night I was out with my aunt and uncle. It was after dinner and we were sitting by the river having a drink. My uncle’s phone rang. He was solemn when he hung up his cellular. His brother in law and niece then were working in New York. Both working in separate towers. After the news had sunk in, we worriedly waited for them (in NY) to make a connection with any relative here in Sg. It was a long wait. Luckily for them, my distant cousin was away on extended leave and the uncle was in another state visiting his son. In Asian, we called them “big life” meaning able to escape catastrophe. Both father and daughter working side by side building, both escape by sheer luck or by divine help? I’m sure they will remember to treasure their present lives and mourn for their unfortunate colleagues this time every year.

    Laura, we cannot change the past, we can only move forward. And by living our lives right, we can affect others. I believe in the ripple effect. One good deed affecting another person, one love spreading far and wide.


    • Sam that must have been so hard. To have not one, but two loved ones there, not only in NY but potentially in the towers. I had a friend that waited two days to hear from her brother and I had a moment too, wondering if Dean had gone to Philadelphia that week. It’s where the head office of the company was and one of the crashed planes was San Francisco bound. Everything was so confusing in the ensuing hours. It seemed he was always on a plane in those days travelling back east. It scared me and he knew it would so he called everyone to reassure us quickly. A good brother. I am grateful both of your ‘Big Lives’ made it through that day.

      ‘Laura, we cannot change the past, we can only move forward. And by living our lives right, we can affect others. I believe in the ripple effect. One good deed affecting another person, one love spreading far and wide.’

      These are such wise words, Sam.


  3. I was at school, in the office, watching with confusion as the second plane hit the second building. All I wanted to do was get my kids and go home. I wanted to keep everyone safe. I called my mom, my husband, my daughter away at college. I told her to stay home, to skip classes that day. I watched as the second tower collapsed, again confused that the first had already fallen. That night I did yoga and meditated on what had happened. I said silent prayers to those who had died. I envisioned them as lights, circling above us in the sky, free from their bodies and earthly lives. I remember the clear blue sky and the crescent moon the next morning, and the eerily silent skies.
    I, too, belive in the ripple effect. Lovely post, Laura.


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