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Friday, September 11, 2009

It was a clear, sunny morning

The sky was bright blue. My daughter, Laura, who was a junior in high school, and I stood together in front of the TV in silence. I handed the remote to her and went back to my room to finish getting ready for work. A few seconds later she yelled out, "Mom! I just saw another plane hit the other building." I shouted, "Fuck! It's terrorists!" I thought I sounded weird. I didn't recognize my own voice.

In the car on the way to school, she said, "what's going to happen to the people in those buildings." Stupidly, I replied, "they'll be fine. I worked in a building just like that and for as many fire drills we had, we also had plane crash drills. Those buildings can take anything."

When I got to the office, I thought it was strange that my boss was already there. He didn't usually get to work that early unless he had court or something. I sat at my desk staring at my files. I was impressed that Alice, my co-worker, was actually typing something. Shortly, my boss came out of his office and gave us the pep talk. "I want you girls to stay busy and get lots of work done today." Then, he left.

I called Tom at our main client's office in Chicago. He said everybody there was going home and he would talk to me tomorrow.

Alice wanted to get on the internet. We didn't have the internet at the office, so she unplugged the phone line from the back of the fax machine and plugged it into her computer. I was in awe that she knew how to do that. She signed on to her AOL account. Her desk was one of those prefab computer hutch contraptions. We squeezed both our chairs in front of her monitor. We were able to get on CNN, but it was very slow. We took turns with the mouse. She was left-handed, so we didn't have to switch chairs. We stayed like that all morning, except to take breaks when we'd go stand outside and stare up at the sky. We took frequent breaks.

About 10:30 a young man of about 25 came in the front door. This was a rare occurrence, but did sometimes happen - strangers wandering in off the street. He stood in front of us and said, "what is this place?" I said, "this is a private law office. Who are you looking for?" He was casually, but sharply dressed. I can't remember if he said anything and he turned around and left the way he came in. He was Middle-Eastern. Alice got up and locked the front door. I got up and locked the back door. Later that night I would tell someone this story and the person told me I was a bigot for even mentioning it. I felt small and ignorant. Some years later I told someone else and that person reminded me that Jesus was a Middle-Eastern man.

About noon we got word that all the state workers in the Capitol Complex just up the street were being told to go home. I called my boss and told him. He said for me and Alice to keep working. I called him again at 2:30 and said, "I think I need to go home now." He said, "okay, but I want you in there tomorrow getting everything done. Okay?" Alice and I locked up the place and went our separate ways.

Laura called when she got out of school to say she was going to the mall with friends. I told her this was not the time to be going to the mall and to just come home. But, she went to the mall anyway.

Later that evening, my older daughter, Allie, wanted to know what I thought we should do. Without giving it any prior thought, I told her we were going to get steel doors for the house, plywood for the windows, and bomb curtains, too. I said we would be arming ourselves with semi-automatic handguns, shotguns and rifles. I wondered aloud how hard it would be to get a cache of machine guns. I looked over and noticed a half-empty gallon bottle of distilled water I had bought years before for ironing clothes. I said we should probably buy some canned food and water, too.

She said, "mom! What is wrong with you? Why are you acting like that? You don't even like guns." I told her you don't have to like guns to use them for self-defense. I told her she didn't have to fire any guns if she didn't want to.

We never did any of those things.

Every year I write this same post, or something similar. And every year I save it in draft form without posting it. Someone told me that it's not right that I get to sit back and remember this day and what I did on this day just once a year while the families of the people who died on that day remember it and live it every minute of every day. And it's not right that American service men and women are out doing for our country what I won't do for our country. This is an American life.

And so we fast forward eight years. It's another clear, sunny morning. The sky is blue, but not as blue as it was on that day. We've been fighting this in Afghanistan all this time. Apparently, our war is offensive to the Afghan people. So, from now on, our military vehicles will yield the road to their vehicles. More later.

Posted by Marie at September 11, 2009 11:42 AM

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