Thursday, September 11, 2008

WHERE WERE YOU?

9/11 September 11, 2008

It was morning and I had not yet showered and dressed. Late summer, with the peaches heavy in the trees and kids back in school. September always brings the relief of routine, a sort of emotional hunkering down. The flow of “back to school” having in my life only a tiny handful of years’ break between being a student and being the parent of students. I crave September like I crave the corn of August and the Manning’s harvest of early Alberta’s that I peel and chunk into fresh peach pie. I was savoring the taste of September; the independence, the freshness of being alone in the house while the kids were safe in their classrooms, the bedroom window left open to welcome crisp September morning air. Then the phone rang.
“Turn on your TV.” It was Libby, her voice a strange blend of anxious and sober. “What’s wrong?” Like a mounting wave I felt the rise of impending doom. I could sense it in her voice. Sometimes you know someone so well you can hear their message without their words. I found the remote at the side of the bed as I held the phone in my other hand.
“What channel?”
“Doesn’t matter.”
Smoke was rising from a tall building. “What is that?” I asked Libby, before I could comprehend what the newscasters were saying. A plane had crashed into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Smack into it, like it meant to do it. Plumes of fire and smoke evolved in the minutes that followed, and then, as if it were a show with average special effects, another plane flew into the other tower. “Did you see that? What happened? Is this real?” We agreed to just watch, and I hung up the phone.
The morning light that washes our bedroom window crossed over the top of the house and made its way to the back deck by the time the kids came home from school. I spent that time sitting on the side of my bed, ignoring hunger, neglecting the laundry, forgetting to shower, forgetting to dress. Charlie Gibson stayed with me all morning as I shifted from the side of the bed to the chair in the bedroom, to my knees at my bedside, to standing with fists at my hips, facing the TV screen head-on in disbelief.
I don’t really remember where I was when President Kennedy died. I was 5 years old. But I remember my mom made me quit doing cartwheels in the empty living room of our new house in Pittsburgh on the day of his funeral. She made me stop and watch our black and white console, not because she had any intense desire for me to remember what was happening, but because it just felt right to be still. On September 11, 2001 I knew, as I was living it, that this was a moment to be still. I wanted to find my children and pull them into me; to beckon my husband home from a trial in Denver. As it turned out they would not let him fly home. All planes were grounded. He recalls the desperate feeling of needing to be with us and not being allowed to get there. He finally found a rental car, a miracle indeed, and he welcomed a stranger to join him when the rentals were sold out. They drove through the night across the mountains.
That next spring I travelled with Kate’s Madrigals group to NYC for some performances. We visited Ground Zero the afternoon after one of their shows. Silently we passed the makeshift wooden walls that sheltered the place where cranes and workers sifted through the remains of the tragedy. Plywood walls were covered with home-made posters of the missing, the corners of the papers curled in around the staples that held them in place. Stuffed animals sunk into the creases between the ground planks and the walls, weathered and compressed by rain and dust, their fur all matted and fading. Flower vases tipped over against them, with brown stems bent and broken, stuck inside the glass. We filed through one by one, until we gathered at the apex. Our children put their arms around each other and began to sing. Softly. Reverently. “Oh say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light. What so proudly we hailed in the twilight’s last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight o’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.” We wept like babies, we parents who were there huddled around the circle of our children. They sounded like angels.
This morning I pull the drawer of my jewelry chest open and dig through my disorganization. I can feel it by its shape, a metal rectangle with a tack on the back. I close my eyes for a moment, to remind myself and my God that I have not forgotten, then I pin my 9/11 Olympics pin on my lapel. Red white and blue, and the word “Remember”.
Some things we must not forget, not because we need to recall our anger at the enemy, or the feelings of helplessness that come with attack. What I must not forget is that I am part of a large and beautiful whole. Not just an American, though that matters to me very much. I remind myself that I am part of a family of souls who share this good earth, its good and its evil. I remind myself that what hurts or helps one of us hurts or helps all of us; that I may wish to be separate but I will never be alone. By divine nature we are connected, and I make the conscious choice to embrace that connectedness, not out of duty, but out of love.

(Where were you on Sept 11, 2001?

Here's a site for the NYC Memorial: http://www.tributewtc.org/index.php)


9 comments:

  1. What a morning that was, which turned into a day, then a week, then a year, etc. Remember our neighborhood prayer and candlelight circle in front of your house. Brian Oshiro lead the prayer and we hung onto each other for comfort. We worried about David. We worried about any family that was not close by. Our flag is lowered and we will remember. Thanks for the beautiful words.

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  2. Cori I always love reading your blog.

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  3. you are such a beautiful writer. i never tire of reading your writing. i remember trying to explain to my worried second graders that day what had happened. it felt like a huge responsibility not really understanding it myself. it is always good to remember. thanks for your words.

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  4. What a beautiful post. I wept as I read - and remembered almost as vividly the day the Murray building was bombed in Oklahoma City. Thank you for such a beautiful tribute - may we never forget... i wish I could leave you with my a pic of my little nephew at the memory field this morning.... saluting the soldier there honoring those protecting our freedoms.....

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  5. Cori you are a beautiful writer. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings. love you A

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  6. Cori. NUmber one, your writing is beautiful. Number two, this year as 9/11 came and went I felt a bit of guilt as I realized I couldn't really remember where I was or what I was doing the same day in 2001. Your memory helped me remember a little more of the feelings I felt on that day. Thank you for that. and Number three, you always have a way of making me cry, if it's with your music or writing. (not tears of complete sadness, just tears)
    I miss you, and love you.

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  7. Cori,
    I had helped a family from our ward in Harlem move to Brooklyn on Sept. 11th this year. At 11:30pm I crossed the East River over the Brooklyn Bridge back into manhattan. Traffic slowed to almost a standstill as the cars slowly absorbed the two brightly beaming lights that lit up the sky in memory of that historic day. I couldnt help but think it was a simple gesture of respect, oddly comforting to see New Yorkers taking a few minutes to reflect with a pause from the usual city noise, no honking, just a few minutes at an unusually slow pace to honor those who died that day while suspended temporarily in the air.

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  8. Jase-
    Thanks for sharing that beautiful moment in NYC this year. People have spirits and auras, and so do places. It's a sweet thought to imagine that bustling city pausing in reverence and rememberance.

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  9. (a little late in responding, but had to anyway)
    I was in New York in my apt on 44th & btwn 9th & 10th ave. My dad called me to make sure I was ok. I had no idea what was going on and turned the TV just in time to see the 2nd plane hit. I had to get to rehearsal and make sure my cast was ok. We had 43 of the 45 people accounted for by 10am. It was the most stressful and rewarding day of my career as a Stage manager. I will forever be bonded to the people who stood and supported each other that day in NYC. We were all so young.

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