I remember being woken by a phone call. The sky outside my window was still dark. My mother in law, slightly incoherent and completely hysterical, demanded I turn on the TV. I tried to shake off the grogginess as a I staggered down the stairs with six-week-old Natalie in my arms. I had to wake Carolyn, a dear friend living with us at the time, because the only TV in the house was right next to where she was sleeping in our living room.
And even though it was early morning, we turned on the news and fell headfirst into a nightmare.
I remember how Katie Couric stumbled over her words. Two tall buildings, hemorrhaging smoke against a deep blue sky. A plane had hit them? One? Both? A small plane? We don't know. We can't get answers. And then I remember a building disappearing in a belch of debris. Utter shock. Disbelief. The anchors saying, "I think it just fell."
I remember the horror: true, quaking, nauseating horror. The images of people throwing themselves out of windows to escape the flames. The reporters running with the crowds when the second building fell, the clouds of dust billowing around them like a hellish plume. The ash-covered faces. The fences covered with posters of the missing. The desperate plea for someone, anyone, to be found alive.
I remember all we did the rest of that week was watch TV, cry, sleep and pray. I remember, vividly, waking in my bed near San Francisco to hear a low plane rumbling over my house, just two day after 9-11, when all the planes were still grounded. I bolted upright and sat listening for what seemed like hours, waiting for the explosion that surely most follow. I learned the next day it was a military plane, patrolling. But the terror of that moment, the new reality, it marked me.
I also remember little Natalie. Sweet, baby Natalie who knew nothing of pain or terror. I remember studying her face as she looked at me with complete trust and joy.
Unlike some of my friends, I didn't suddenly brim with regret for bringing a child into this world. Just the opposite. Her innocence brought me peace. It grounded me. I nursed my new baby that week and cried into her head for all the mamas who lost their babies that day, all the families torn, and her little body tucked into mine was a healing balm.
I remember it all. And this morning, as we drove down streets filled with flags flying at half mast, I shared these memories with Natalie. She's 12 now, and her hand covered her mouth as she grasped the evil of that day. When I told her many of the people killed were firefighters running into a flaming building, intent on rescue, she turned a bowed head and let the tears fall.
She is growing up in a post-9-11 world. She might not feel her stomach knot at the pictures of the buildings imploding, the way we older ones do. Because she didn't live it. She's only heard the stories, and there's a vividness that marks those of us who were witnesses.
But I remember, and today, my heart remembers.
Even as morning dawns outside my window.
Posted by Kelly @ Love Well on Wednesday, September 11, 2013