Sunday woke up clear and beautiful, the sky that cloudless piercing blue it takes on around here in the month of September. It was the same blue from that day ten years ago, and it seems to me that the day dawns with that blue blue sky every year, on the anniversary of 9/11, although I'm sure there must have been some rainy anniversaries along the way. But I will always remember the blue sky, and the way the sun made the leaves glow from above. I had only been a mother for fourteen months when the events of 9/11 happened, and the beauty of the day, and the quality of that blue sky added a particular kind of pain, the kind of pain that is especially wrenching and only makes you feel more alone, and more afraid.
We all experienced the events of 9/11 differently. We will all, each of us, always remember our own particular experiences, our own feelings and associations. I'm reposting below a piece I wrote in 2006, about my own experiences and associations --how I remember that terrible, terrible day.
I woke up today thinking about September 11th, five years ago. I think waking up with that day on my mind was inevitable--for me, and probably for everyone, in fact. What I thought about today while I showered was not so much the other memories I have of that day--the blue cloudless sky, the images from the television, the feeling of horror and unreality each time I looked up into the sky at an airplane overhead. Instead, I have been thinking about another image I have--one which is interlinked to the other images and which will, forever, be connected with that day.
Five years ago I first heard about the events of September 11th on the car radio, as I was driving home from dropping Scott off at work (we had recently moved to North Carolina and had only one car). I had also just stopped off at the store for some quick supplies. I was singing to L., who was then only 14 months old, and the scenery was whizzing by, green, crisp, comforting and very, very ordinary. My song was interrupted by some extraordinary news--news that seemed so bizarre it surely must have been a hoax. Still, I felt a dark unease settle around me suddenly, and although I kept on singing, I was immediately afraid. When I got home I was in a hurry to get to the television--to turn on the news and find out if what I had heard was really true. My arms were heavy with the shopping bags, so I left L. at the bottom of the side steps, and told him to wait (he was busy looking at a stick), so I could rush in, deposit my bags, and return to scoop him up and help him up the stairs. But when I came back out, only seconds later, but in a flurry of anxiety and fear over what was happening to the world--my world, our world--I found L. on the steps, trying to make his way up to the side porch. I don't know if it was my sudden appearance on the steps which frightened him, or if he lost his footing, but he suddenly tripped and fell backwards. It was one of those moments that happened so quickly I was powerless to do anything. I remember his face, his mouth open in an "O" of surprise and fear, his little arms grabbing at the air. I'm sure my face mirrored his--my arms outstretched to grab at him, but he was beyond my reach and already falling.
Luckily he wasn't badly hurt--only a bump on the head, some scrapes, and very hurt feelings. I gathered him up to my chest and squeezed him tight, while he sucked air, building up for the great release of tears. I ran inside and while he cried--a massive unburdening of fear and pain over the injustice of the fall--I watched the news and cried, too. When I think of September 11th I will always think of that feeling of helplessness--of being unable to bridge the gap; I think of how I was able to pull L. close to me--gather him up from the ground where he lay--and I think of all those thousands of people out there who remain with arms outstretched; who remain forever reaching for loved ones they cannot touch.