As another generation asked, "Do you remember where you were when you heard that President Kennedy had been shot?", so do we now ask each other, "Where were you when you heard the news on September 11?" In 1963 I was two years old, and yet I remember vividly the TV being on all day, which was unusual; both sets of grandparents showing up at our house, which also was unusual; and all the grown-ups crying.
In 2001, I was the grown-up, with two small children of my own. Here is our family's story of that day.
Ten years ago it was Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
My daughter Alice was just twelve days away from her eighth birthday.
My son Davey was not yet four years old.
That morning they were both sleeping snuggled up next to me in the big bed in our townhouse out in McHenry County, about 50 miles west of Chicago. Their dad had left for work less than an hour earlier.
It was going to be a special day for us three, because we had decided to go into the city and take the elevator up to the top of what was then the Sears Tower, the tallest building east of the Mississippi. We had visited the museums and parks in Chicago many times, but had never done the Sears Tower thing, so we were excited.
As a freelancer working nights after everyone else went to bed, I usually stayed up very late tackling my current projects, then slept in until at least 10 a.m., as did my homeschooled children.
But at exactly 7:46 that morning--8:46 a.m. New York time--for reasons still unknown to me, Davey started sobbing desperately in his sleep.
Which was not a thing he ever did, being the best sleeper--unlike his sister--an always-exhausted mother could ever hope to have.
I glanced at the clock to see numbers that still haunt me.
Then I gathered him in my arms and tried to understand what was wrong; but, always a man of few words, even then, he couldn't really tell me. He was more than half asleep, but yet he was truly, almost inconsolably, distraught.
As I cuddled and rocked him, I worried that maybe he was getting sick; he had severe asthma when he was little, and had suffered bout after bout of pneumonia. But I didn't hear the tell-tale wheezing, and he wasn't coughing--so then I was just the teensiest bit fried because it was an awkward time to wake up: too early for me to feel well-rested enough for the day we had planned, but too late to really go back to sleep now.
Eventually, though, he quieted, and I laid him gently back down next to me and dozed off a bit myself.
About 45 minutes later, my husband called.
"Turn on the TV," he said. "Now."
And so I did.
Just in time to watch--in utter, uncomprehending horror--as the South Tower fell.
My husband explained with intense urgency what he knew thus far as I stared at replays of the planes hitting the towers.
Without thinking, I pulled Davey back onto my lap and held my sleeping child ever more tightly as the images unfolded before me.
All I could think of, as tears streamed uncontrollably down my face, was that there were children on those planes.
The people in the towers.
The firefighters. The EMTs. The police officers.
All those people.
All those families.
Then Alice woke up.
The rest of the day was unlike any I've ever lived, before or since.
Of course we did not go into the city. By 10 a.m. CDT the Sears Tower was being evacuated.
By noon my husband's employer had sent all its workers home.
We watched the live coverage all afternoon in complete and absolute shock. It was mind-numbingly unfathomable.
Late in the day I called my parents in Phoenix to ... since I thought ... it seemed important to know ...
Because I needed to hear my mother's voice.
Finally around 6 p.m., my two subdued and wide-eyed children, who grasped with sadness that many, many people had gotten hurt that day, needed a break from everything.
So I took them, on this gorgeous, sunny early evening, to one of our favorite parks nearby, popular with the families in our neighborhood.
Today there was just one other family there, a father and mother and three children, who appeared to be of middle-Eastern descent. We didn't know each other, but we acknowledged each other's presence with polite nods and uncertain half-smiles.
As my children played on the swingset, I became aware that it was oddly quiet.
So very quiet.
I looked up at the cloud-free sky and realized.
On any other day, whenever we were outside, there was always the thrumming background drone of flight after flight after flight making its way to O'Hare Airport. A noise so common that it was just part of the soundtrack of our lives, day in and day out, always that distant roar.
the brilliantly blue
as the tears
In memory of all those we lost that day, and all the families whose lives were irrevocably changed. May we never forget.
copyright 2011 / Binky and the Misfit Mimes / Lynn V. Ingogly / all rights reserved