October 15, 2004

My 9/11

By Kristie © 2004

Unfortunately, I would have remembered 9/11/01 even if it wasn't the day of the most heinous act of terrorism ever ever.

At the time, I was in a horrible, horrible relationship with a controlling, evil, bad-tempered little man. The best part of that relationship was that he traveled all the time for work. He'd be gone for two weeks at a time. I was taking this particular opportunity to look for an apartment. I would sign my new lease on September 12th.

But on the 11th,

I got up at the crack for work, stumbled into the kitchen to feed the kids, did the headcount. Minus one. Shit. So I went on the Monty hunt, filling with panic just like the day I had found him with all the broken bones. Sure enough, he was in my closet, shaking and frothing at the mouth. I scooped him up and drove in tears and pajamas all the way to the emergency vet, which was 20 minutes away. Of course.

Apparently he had gotten into some type of cleaner. They washed it off of him, patted him on the head, collected a trillion dollars from me and sent us on our way.

Take him home, go to work. And then . . . 9/11.

"Did you hear that some plane crashed into the World Trade Center?"

"They think the pilot had a heart attack or something."

"Heh. He's probably wasted. Moron."

So we all crowded around Laura's monitor and watched. She'd somehow gotten on to CNN.com before it was impossible to do so. They had live feed. We were watching as a second plane, seemingly in slow motion, approached the second tower.

"Wait. What the fuck?"

We all furrowed our brows and kind of looked at each other with a new sort of disbelief. Surreal disbelief. You know the little laughs that come out of your mouth when nothing's funny?

"Two? But that can't be a coincidence."

And now there are all these goosebumps all over my body and my head won't stop shaking from side to side and I still can't unfurrow my brow.

We have TVs on now and there are shots of people in New York, running through the streets in horror and in their business suits. Can't you just picture the looks on their faces? You remember, don't you? It looked like a movie.

"Someone did this on purpose? Why? Who?"

"And what? Terrorism?"


"But this is America. That doesn't happen here."

I'll never forget the small, snowy black and white, TV we had over in the corner near order entry. If we squinted hard enough, we could see something that looked like implosion.

"Hey, aren't there people all in there?"

"Yeah. Lots and lots of people. Probably thousands of people."

"Well, so . . . But the tower just fell down. What do you think happened to . . . ."

Oh my god. Who do I know in New York? Who lives there? Where do they work? Who's on vacation?

“What??? The fucking pentagon? HUH? The second tower? Fell? Just fell?"

I felt weightless. Like I was on wheels. Drifting from snowy TV to CNN.com to radio. My skin hurt. There was a lump in my throat and I forget where my stomach went. Oh, and work. Deadlines.

"Another plane? Just in a field? But why? Why a field?"

We got an email from corporate. In New York. Our CFO and the President of one of our brands had been on the plane that hit the first tower. Adopted daughters. Pregnant wife. Volunteered in his community. Leader in the church. Little league. Married 20 years.

Enough cannot be said about the details of that day. The way little things were impossible to do. The way functionality went out the window. I was working for a publishing company, trafficking two weekly magazines. Both had Tuesday deadlines. Missing deadlines cost us thousands of dollars. I had to work. And focus on something else, as if that was possible.

By the time I could go home that day, President Bush had addressed the situation. Yes, terrorism. Not saying who. Don't know if they're done.

Driving home. Other people. Other people who knew, just like I did, that this inexplicable thing had just happened to all of us. When I describe 9/11 to my children and grandchildren, I will sum it up in one word, "quiet." Flags were at half staff immediately which has always been visually visceral for me. No planes in the sky. No music. No commercials. No cell phones. No speeding. We were all sitting in our cars, staring, wide eyed, ahead . . .

One of the dogs I lived with at the time was very, very old. Once and a while he had a hard time controlling his, um, bodily functions. Y'all, there is no other way to say this, no way to sugar coat projectile diarrhea. All over the walls, the carpet, the cabinets, upstairs as well as downstairs. And the steps in between.

But I couldn't worry about that. Because Monty was almost dead. As in barely breathing.

With dazed deliberateness, I took him the 1/4 mile to his real vet. More other people who know. Please, can we talk about my cat? I cannot begin to find an articulate word to say about the other.

They pump his stomach. They give him fluids. They run tests. They denounce emergency vet. Me? I sat small in a corner, nodding, trying to understand words. And form some of my own.

Two hours later, with more alive Monty in tow, I got to go home and clean shit off of this house I lived in. And with CNN on in every room, I tried to pay attention to the poop, but I had to keep running back to see what else? Jesus, what else? They kept showing it over and over. One plane, two plane. One implosion, two implosions. Now in slow mo.

When I finally collapsed in bed that night, I fell into shallow sleep with the TV on. I woke up 8,000 times that night. Sat straight up, focused on the screen, and listened to what they said. I listened until I was sure that "they" were finished. That "they" hadn't done more. That there'd be a tomorrow.

And in the process of writing this all out, I've filled up with tears and worn goosebumps. Because yes, three years ago. But it still feels like yesterday, doesn't it? And I'm grateful for that. The least I can do is still feel it.

Kristie is a blogger from Atlanta, Georgia. She's the author of the blog Type A.

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