Friday, September 09, 2011

Letter to Princess on 9/13/01

Princess was not quite 18 months old. Hubby had to go to a conference in Baltimore so I asked my parents to come stay with me for that week. After 18 months I was still not quite confident enough to be a mom alone for a whole week. I'm so glad that they were here.

I remember going to Wal-Mart because I just had to do something normal. As I walked toward the store an older woman turned to me and said, "Can you f*cking believe this?" We just stared at each other in the parking lot shaking our heads.

I remember that night going outside and looking up at the sky. For all of my life I have marveled at the fact that I can't be outside for more than 10 or 20 minutes without seeing an airplane go by. This night, and the following day, I watched the sky with the strange knowledge that no man-made craft would interrupt my meditations.

I remember Wednesday night going to the Congress Street bridge and watching the bats come out. We met countless people who were stranded waiting for air transportation to resume.

I remember trying to get Hubby on the phone and trying not to panic. His group had scheduled a tour of the Pentagon and I couldn't remember if it was supposed to be Tuesday morning or Wednesday morning. It had been scheduled for Wednesday. Hubby was trying to get in touch with his sister whose husband worked at the Pentagon. Turns out his division had relocated from the Pentagon to a different building ten days before.

I remember feeling numb. I also remember feeling love for all of my countrymen.

I remember wanting to do something, but not really knowing what. I heard that the rescue dogs were going through protective booties like crazy. I visited pet stores and only found one pair. I sent them to New York. I got the nicest thank you letter weeks later.

I remember delivering a meal to a friend who had just had a baby. I dropped off the food and watched more of the TV coverage from her living room. Her husband came in, took a stack of business cards from his wallet and started separating them into piles. He was in finance and did a lot of business with people in New York. The largest pile of cards all bore the address of World Trade Center. He held them up and said, "I don't even know if these people are still alive."

On Thursday of that week ten years ago, I started a letter to Princess.

My Dearest Princess, Sept 13, 2001
One day you will ask me about the events of this week. I know I will never be able to explain to you exactly what went on and exactly what it did to our country and our way of life. The world will never be the same. You will never know the New York skyline as I did. You will visit a memorial to the Twin Towers as I can visit a memorial to the ships at Pearl Harbor. I pray that you will know a world without fear and without threat. I pray that you will never know the feelings that I have had the last two days. I will try to recount what happened and how I felt.
First of all, your daddy is on a business trip to Baltimore so Grandmommy and Grandpoppy are staying with us so I won’t go nuts! Tuesday morning I was getting you ready to go to Mother’s Day Out (which you love!) when Uncle Lance called. He asked if we were watching TV and I said no. He said, “Turn it on.” I thought that maybe one of our friends was being interviewed on TV (we know some artsy type people) and so I joked to Uncle Lance, “Why? Are we at war?” He said, “Almost.” That’s when I knew something was really wrong. I turned on the TV and saw the Twin Towers smoking. They had been hit by two hijacked planes. In my mind it wasn’t real. I couldn’t believe that I was watching these two proud giants so wounded. I can’t really describe to you what was going on in my head. I was in such shock and disbelief. No one could do this to US, the United States of America! Who could do it and HOW? We watched for a long time and they had footage of the second plane going into the building. It just sliced into it and then there was an incredible explosion. It really was like a movie. I’m sure that you will see footage of it over and over. It will be archival to you. But it was real to me. I called your daddy’s cell phone and left the first of several messages. I debated whether or not to take you to Mother’s Day Out. I didn’t know if I wanted to be away from you. I finally decided that you would have more fun there because I was going to be useless to you all day! I’m so sorry that I felt that way. You didn’t mind, though. You love to play with other kiddos! Shortly before I packed you into the car they came on the TV and said that something had just happened at one of the Towers. The reporter said that he couldn’t tell what was going on because of the dust and debris, but he thought that a chunk of the building had come down. As the dust was clearing we realized that the entire building was gone. It had totally collapsed in on itself. We found out later that it melted from within. The inside was melting and collapsing and the vacuum that caused made the outer structure cave in, too. It was amazing. I was trying hard not to cry. I didn’t know anyone who worked there, but it was just the idea that someone had destroyed a part of our country. Someone had messed with our way of life. And I knew that I would never feel totally safe again.
I had the radio on as I drove you to Mother’s Day Out. There was a correspondent at the Pentagon who reported that they felt a blast there, too. At first I thought that it was just someone panicking and thinking that a car back-firing was gunfire or something. Then he said that he could see out the window and construction workers were running away from the building. He was very confused about what was going on and I was having trouble comprehending it. At that point they didn’t know that the Pentagon had been hit by a plane, they just knew it had been hit. They also came on the radio and said that they were grounding all flights in the United States. All flights were coming down out of the air. There were reports that they couldn’t make contact with a certain number of planes and I thought the worst. I was running through my mind where they would strike next. Would it be Chicago? San Diego? Houston? Dallas? Where? Atlanta was mentioned on the radio as going on alert as was Boston (where most of the hijacked flights originated). It was unreal. As I was pulling into the parking lot at the church Peter Jennings reported that the second tower had come down. Princess, I could only sit there and cry. Both Towers were now gone. And all of those people in them. And we still didn’t know who was doing it. We didn’t know what was next.
All day on Tuesday we watched the news. All day we heard horror stories. And stories of courage. You will know some of those stories. You will see the pictures that I saw. But you can’t know the feelings that our country is experiencing right now.

I wish I could have finished it, but the emotion was too raw. I'm kind of glad that it just stops, though. I think it illustrates the point.

I remember thinking when Diana died that her death was my generation's JFK. For years the question would be "Where were you when you heard that Diana was dead?" I wish I hadn't been wrong.

1 comment:

King of New York Hacks said...

The emotion is still raw for me too...thanks for sharing such a vivid account...I remember discussing Diana like that too with my coworkers only to be wrong as well..I pray the younger generation will have no such event.