Saturday, September 11, 2004

Yeah. Me too.

Hate to be obvious, but what else can I post about this morning? It's the elephant in the living room.

It was the second week of school and I had a nasty cold. There weren't any library classes until the afternoon, so the night before I'd called in sick for the morning. I would've called in for the whole day, but that afternoon was the kindergarteners' first library class and it didn't seem right to leave them with a sub.

So I was asleep at 7:30 Pacific time when my oldest friend M. called from St. Louis.

"I can't get to work," she said.

I thought she meant she was stuck in traffic.

"No, I'm at work, I just can't work. I can't do anything. Didn't you hear the news? A plane crashed into the World Trade Center this morning."

It was then that I uttered what was possibly the stupidest sentence ever to come out of my mouth. "Oh, my God! Was anyone hurt?"

In my defense: somehow I'd gotten the impression that the plane had hit early in the morning, before most people were at work. And I didn't know it had happened, as Sarah likes to say, on purpose. But still. I cringe every time I think of it.

M. filled me in on some of the facts, expressed her fervent hopes that this didn't mean we'd be going to war against Afghanistan [whereupon I continued my "idiot" motif by asking what Afghanistan had to do with anything], and we said goodbye.

RW came down from the attic loft, where she'd been sleeping for a while. (The idea was that she would catch up on sleep if she couldn't hear Sarah's crying, and Sarah would go back to sleep more easily if I went in to her at night instead of RW, but also we weren't getting along too well right then and were at the beginning of what turned out to be a very rough year.) She had a cold too, and was exhausted from just over a year of nursing, primary-parenting, and working.

"M. just called. A plane crashed into the World Trade Center this morning. It's all over the news."

"Ooeeerrrnnnhh," she groaned. "I feel rotten. Will you take Sarah when she wakes up?" She turned around and climbed back up the stairs.

The rest of the day is snippets: Playing with Sarah while she babbled and smiled and Bob Edwards talked urgently from the radio. Saying goodbye to RW and Sarah before I left for work that afternoon, then realizing as I closed the car door that I had no idea whether there were going to be any more attacks. Waving to my co-worker S. through the window between our desks, and her meaningful sigh and shrug.

The kindergarten library class was a mess. I was still sick; my head felt like it was stuffed with cotton. Everyone was trying not to let on about anything to the younger kids, but they must have felt the vibes because they were extra-wiggly and distractable. I couldn't find the book I'd been planning to read to them and went to my desk to look for it.

While I was rummaging in the piles of papers, and the kids were trying to wait quietly, I heard a plane. One single plane. All flights had been grounded, I'd heard on the radio. I looked out the windows that face south from the library, and saw it in the air over the playground.

I ducked. My knees just bent of their own accord and I hunched over net to my desk, like someone in a duck-and-cover drill from the 50's. The kids stared at me, wondering what kind of weirdo they had for a librarian. I looked back at them and couldn't think of a thing to say.

After a few seconds the plane passed and I stood up and went back to the story rug, trying like a dope to act like I hadn't done anything strange. I hadn't been able to find the book I wanted so I read a backup book. They listened okay. I showed them how to pick out books to borrow.

The kindergarteners got older and calmed down. They're in 3rd grade now and read like fiends. Sarah eventually weaned, and RW and I got more sleep and went to therapy and stopped fighting so much.

So, all things come to an end. Even this war, even this disastrous administration, will come to an end sometime. And our kids will feel about this day the way I feel about November 22, the day Kennedy was shot: oh, yeah, something happened today, didn't it? Something in history?

But right then, I didn't know that plane was going to just pass by. And for so many people three years ago, and for so many since then, it didn't.


Blogger Anna said...

I didn't realize until I read this that for the most part I _have_ stopped looking worriedly at the sky whenever I hear a plane. For the longest time my head would whip back and I'd scan the blue for danger. Part of me feels sad, less vigilant, that I'm no longer so wary.

The morning of the attacks I happened to turn on BBCAmerica when normally I never turned on the television in the morning. When I saw what they were showing I thought it was a movie...I have a shameful memory of running into the kitchen to tell my husband while wearing that weird "something awful" happened smile on my face...why a smile, I wish I could say...maybe it was just too much to comprehend at that moment. I don't know.

8:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Els, I remember that terrible year for you, and of course the cold you had was just the beginning of a lot of illness, wasn't it? I remember noticing in about December that I hadn't really done anything all semester, just shown up to class and drifted through and sat in my office. I still can't wrap my mind around the whole thing.


9:55 AM  

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