Sunday, September 11, 2011

One Day

We were living where we live now, just outside of DC. I was in my 4th month pregnancy with my daughter and just getting over that first trimester of nausea. My husband was on business in Alaska of all places. As I was ironing a shirt for work and watching old sitcoms on USA Network, the phone rang.

It was my close college friend from Boston. She told me that a plane had flown into one of the twin towers. She asked if I knew anyone who worked there. I did. Many in fact. Family, extended family, friends, extended friends. You can't grow up in NJ without knowing a few dozen people who work on Wall St. I switched the channel to the news. As we reminisced about the time she came to visit me and I took her on a tour of NY, which included the World Trade Center, a second plane flew into the second tower - all in real time, all on air.

In a split second, the situation went from a horrible accident to the realization that we were under attack. I quickly said my goodbyes to my friend (in hindsight, I hope I was thinking enough to thank her for calling me and tell her I love her, but I'm not sure that in the thick of things I remembered to even say goodbye).

My sister-in-law worked in the World Trade Center, but I didn't want to call my mother-in-law (and no doubt wake her) to ask if she had heard from her daughter; she probably didn't even know what happened. Instead, I called my husband's hotel in Alaska.

It was around 4am. The woman at the desk was very nice. I said I was calling from DC, had she heard the news, and that I had to speak with my husband. She had, and she quickly connected me to his room. Of course, he woke up startled. I walked him through what happened as calmly as possible. I told him, "Call your mother. She shouldn't hear this from me." He was worried that I was by myself and pregnant; I was worried that he was working at a military AFB plus with the planes grounded, he wouldn't be home for weeks. We said our "I love you's " and weren't in contact again for two days.

The next few hours were a blur. The towers falling all in real time for the world to see, news of the Pentagon being hit, news of the downed plane in PA which was said to have been in route to the White House. I tried to make calls to all my family and friends in NJ and NY, but I couldn't get through. I tried to call my aunt who worked at the Pentagon. I tried to call my sister who was a student at GWU in DC just blocks from the White House. I couldn't get through to anyone.

I called work and said I was staying home for a few days. They understood given my condition, my husband a country away, and our entire family in the thick of things. It occurred to me that if my husband had been home, he would have been in lockdown in DC since his office was just two blocks from the White House. I preferred that he was in Alaska.

Two days passed and my husband was finally able to get through on the phone. It would be two weeks before he got a flight out of Anchorage. During that time, I was able to contact every one of my family and friends who worked downtown and every one of them, had a story... of running late that morning, of taking the day off to golf because it was so beautiful, of being stuck in traffic, of being the last train out of the WTC station before it was hit (that was my brother-in-law who is a motorman for the PATH train). When all was said and done, I didn't know anyone directly who had died that day. An incredible feat given just how many people I know who worked there or around there. And while I was immensely grateful, I was also plagued. Plagued with the thought of bringing my baby into a world that may be at war.

Six months (and 1 day) to that day, my beautiful daughter was born. And in those six months, I had plenty of time to ponder the world that I was bringing her into. A world where men's hatred not of each other but of each other's ideas could bring them to the point of committing such tremendously horrid acts against one another. A world where men's base animal instincts are acted upon instead of the civilized and rational thoughts we should have achieved over 1000s of years of evolution. A world where I would have to teach my innocent child to be afraid of the unknown instead of seek to learn about it.

We all have a story from that one day. A day that has forever changed us; some for the good, some for the worse. A day that can't be forgotten with time only perhaps looked at with different perspective. I have used that day to remind myself to be the best version of myself each day, to make a memory each day. Admittedly, some days fall short of that goal, but it is in the growing that we become.

I leave the politics and war to the powers that be. My focus is on "if today is my last day, what would I be leaving behind". My hope is that my bright and compassionate daughter be my legacy and that the worst anyone can say about me is that I left behind a sink full of dirty dishes ;-)

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