Thursday, September 11, 2014

Suddenly Winter, a September 11th essay

As I set up for my day’s work, shafts of early autumn sun poured through the windows. A perfect fall day in Pennsylvania – clear blue sky, a few puffy clouds, the kind of day that sings in delight at its own excellence. 
I looked at my watch - my first appointment was late. Quite unusual. When the mother wheeled her son in well after 9:00, she was breathless and spewing apologies. “Have you heard?” she asked.
“Heard what?”
“Something horrible has happened. Two planes, two separate planes…” she said, collapsing onto my therapy mat in tears.
In minutes, others poked their heads into the room, adding pieces that created a portrait in horror. I shook my head in disbelief.
Shivering and quaking to the core, I glanced out the window. The clear brilliant blueness of the sky was still there. The sun continued to kiss the earth. A small bird lighted on a sunflower, hungrily pecking at its seedy center. All seemed to be at it had been, as it ought to be. But nothing was the same. The inner peace that comes with security had vaporized.
Even though we were hundreds of miles from the terror, I checked on my family. All were blissfully safe – my husband home on sabbatical, my daughter on Misericordia’s campus, my son at Lackawanna Trail High School. I was unable to get in touch with my sister and her family, 50 miles from the heart of the terror. All I could do was pray they were safe at school and not on field trips to popular sites in New York City. I worried about my parents, who had left New York Harbor just 3 days before on a cruise to Nova Scotia. Would their ship on the open water make an easy target for the next hijacked plane?
A short time later when Washington DC was hit, I said a prayer of thanks that my brother-in-law had been transferred out of his Pentagon job. What of my sister-in-law who worked as a nurse at George Washington University Hospital – would she be called upon to care for some of the injured? Prayers for her, too.
I prayed for my wounded hometown, New York City, for the way its proud, outspoken nature and its intolerance for bullshit had woven itself into my persona. I prayed for childhood friends, the Quinns, who were 3rd generation NY cops. I thought of my old Yorkville neighborhood, of my many visits to the now devastated downtown. And oh, the magnificent view from atop those towers. Just a few years before, my children and I had shared that before with a group of Italian exchange students. 
The irony was inescapable – a city and a nation which embraced generations of people from every corner of the world was left vulnerable by that same openness.
Yes, the day looked the same, but I was wounded and betrayed. The clear autumn beauty had forfeited its promise, sold it for a straight shot into the bitter cold of human nature’s winter.

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