What I will always remember about that day is the sky. A pure crystalline blue, unblemished by clouds. We were in the Boston area at the time and the sky was as clear there as it was in New York. Even in the morning you could tell it was going to be one of those Indian summer days that made you want to kick out of work early and enjoy the season’s last gasp of balmy sunshine.
I had just begun my second year of law school and Tuesday morning found me in a Juvenile Justice class from 9-11 a.m. During the previous classes we had taken a break at around 10, but for some reason we went straight through on that particular morning.
This particular professor did not permit computers in the classroom – he had already caught on to the fact that most people used them to surf the internet or play Free Cell instead of to take notes. Iphones weren’t around yet - the most exciting thing my cell phone did at the time was ring and permit the user to play Snake.
At about 9:30, my phone started vibrating. I pulled the old “phone under the thigh” trick and looked at the screen – Husband. No message. I thought nothing of it and returned to taking notes.
2 minutes later, Husband calls again. And again. Over and over my phone lit up, with no message.
A knot of unease began to grow in my stomach. I thought that something had happened to a family member. As we didn’t break (and getting up in the middle of a lecture wasn’t the sort of thing you did to a law school professor), I had to wait until the end of class to finally call Husband back.
I found out at 11:00 a.m. on September 11, 2001 what had happened to our country.
The rest of the day I remember in a stream of senses and disjointed pictures.
- Staring up at the sky as I waited for the T to take the train home and wondering how something so horrible could happen on such a gloriously beautiful day.
- Leaving the T blocks from the train station because I didn’t want to be underground anymore, only to be redirected back by a Boston police officer.
- The 12:30 train home being packed and smelly and the conductor telling everyone that there was no fare for this ride.
- An overwhelming feeling of complete uncertainty and helplessness.
- Feeling like we needed to do something – going to the blood donation center (closed) to try to help if we could.
- Wondering why. Needing to know why.
- People hanging from buildings, waving white towels.
- Hate. Pure and utter hate.
- Dust. Plumes of smoke flooding the streets of New York.
- Wondering what was coming next. Being sure there was something coming next.
- Paper floating through the air.
- Members of Congress singing “God Bless America” on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
- Sleeping with the TV on all night for the next few nights, then immediately turning on the TV in the morning to check the news for weeks.
- Singing “America the Beautiful” and (still) breaking down at the line “Thine alabaster cities gleam. Undimmed by human tears!”
- The firefighters. The police. The emergency workers.
What is uncanny is that seeing a picture or news broadcast from that day brings back all of those thoughts and emotions in a split second.
This doesn’t have a big punchy ending, doesn’t have a joke. Just what sticks out for me about a day that still hurts.