With Harvey and Irma and the state of the political world, our hearts are all so heavy. But still, the pages of the calendar turn and another September 11th arrives. Our collective heart is so burdened these days. Perhaps that it why the ‘Never Forget’ messages rings more true to me than ever on this September 11th.
While I have the luxury of being able to turn off the news when the family members begin to read the names of their loved ones, there are so many thousands of people who hold the memories of September 11th in their hearts every single day. For them, even when it is super hard, like it seems to be today, we must ‘Never Forget.’
Living as we do now in a suburb of NYC, I have always felt like an outsider on this day. So many of our friends and neighbors were there, in the city, close to the Twin Towers, if not in them, on that day. Rob’s sister and father were both in the city on 9/11. We were hundreds of miles away in Richmond. The stories that others have told me seem like fantasy. We watched that day unfold from afar while so many people were living it. That said, I do still have very distinct memories that I know will follow me always. Here they are.
I remember the perfect fall weather. Even in Richmond, the air was crisp and the sky was a distinct blue. Each fall we have a few days that feel exactly the same and someone will always mention the weather and how much it feels like 9/11. And the stories will begin.
I remember sitting in my classroom at Northstar Academy. Stephanie Brown, the history teacher, a tiny women with dark hair and a tweed skirt, stood in my doorway and delivered the news. There was a faculty room with a tiny television and in-between clients, I would go there and watch in silence with the other teachers. My friend Mary Margaret was pregnant and I remember looking at her belly, wondering how she was going to bring a child in to this changed world.
I remember sitting in this same faculty room pressing the buttons on the grey phone, trying again and again to reach Rob. He was a few hours away at a work off-site and I just wanted to hear his voice. I remember trying to figure out where his dad and his sister were in the city. At that point, I didn’t know the city at all and I had no idea how close or far they might be.
I remember finally reaching Rob and exhaling when he said he would be coming home. The off-site was canceled. Somehow, this more that anything, made me realize the enormity of what had happened.
I remember watching Katie Couric and Matt Lauer and getting cold despite the warm day. They looked as confused as well felt and that just didn’t seem right.
I remember listening to the directors of the school debate if we should tell the kids what had happened before we sent them home. I can’t remember what we did. I know there was a meeting in the gym and I feel like the kids were given a general idea but nothing specific. One of our students was the daughter of a secret service agent and I remember wondering where her dad was.
I remember returning to our first house, the one of Fitzhugh Avenue, and sitting down and turning on the tv. I’m pretty sure the tv was on for the rest of the day and into the night.
I remember that by the time Rob got home, he had spoken to his family and we knew that his dad and sister were in the city but they were safe. We also learned that our brother in law, who lived in the city but was consulting on a job in Richmond, had been in the air when the attacks happened.
I remember going to sleep that night knowing that nothing would ever be the same again.
*Photo credit to Jin Lee. And if you are lucky enough to live in Ridgewood, stop by the library today (or throughout the month) to remember our community members who died on 9/11.