I think everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news about the September 11th attacks. I do, but I've never talked about it before (except with maybe a close friend or two at the time) because it feels so selfish. But I also want to tell my story, and in doing so, I do not mean to equate my sufferings with those who gave their lives that day, or lost someone who did. I do not mean to distract from the events that changed our nation. I only want to fit the story of my life into that page in history.
In 2001, I was also under attack, and I was crumbling. Some days I thought I might die. Others, I wished, and even prayed that I would.
2001 was the year that my husband of more than ten years took me into our sons' bedroom and he, sitting on our oldest son's bed, and me rocking our baby, told me that he was leaving. It was in January.
The glider rocked back and forth. So did my world.
It was later that he told me that he had begun another relationship and was choosing her over me. He felt sure that I'd known. I hadn't. But I forgave him and begged him to leave her and come back to our family. His heart was pretty decided.
On the morning of September 11, I was in the master bathroom, applying makeup after my shower. The television was on in the bedroom, just outside the bathroom door. The Today Show was on, and I saw the breaking story of the first tower being hit. I remember a knot forming in the pit of my stomach. I remember feeling vulnerable in a different sort of way, and I remember the feeling to reach out and connect with someone, to huddle together, to find some sort of comfort, even if only telephonically. I called my estranged husband. He was the one I always wanted to call first, and those habits are hard to break.
Standing in the bedroom we'd shared, and with the news playing, I waited for him to answer, and he did. He hadn't heard yet, already out working I'm sure, and I started rattling off whatever sparse details I was learning from the news. And then the second plane hit. The fear got more intense. This was no accident, we were under attack.
He was just as surprised and in shock as I was, but his reaction was so much different. I will never forget his words to me, calm and collected:
"I hope you don't think that some national disaster is going to bring us back together."
I will never forget how his comment made me reel. Wait, what? As if the universe was manipulating events to emotionally reunite us and there was no way he was falling for it. As if life should just continue on as planned, and nothing should change. As if a terrorist attack in New York City and Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania had no effect on people who lived on the other side of the country.
As if that's why I'd called anyway.
So that day I watched the news all day long. I cried for the people who had died, and the people who were going to die. I cried for the fear and the pain and the why-why-why-whys? I cried for the little children who had lost their fathers and mothers, and the parents who had lost their children. I cried for the heroism of firefighters and rescue workers who walked into hell with a bravery I don't know that I possess. I cried because someone hated us enough to destroy us and call it honor.
And I cried because it hit me again, though I hadn't asked for a reconfirmation, that the twin towers of our little family were no more either. There would be gaping holes in the landscape of the lives of our children, and lives really would be forever scarred.
And just like that, life has never been the same.