Friday, September 9, 2011

Remembering 911


I remember it fell on a Tuesday-- a beautiful, breezy, end-of-summer day. The trees were mostly green, but patches of red, yellow and brown were making their presence known. I remember having a full schedule of activities planned before and after work. My first stop was a follow up appointment with the surgeon who had removed fatty tumor from the upper right part of my back. My appointment was early in the morning and if I managed to get in and out quickly, I wouldn’t be that late for work.
I was thinking about my visit with the handsome, arrogant doctor and wondering if I should flirt with him since I hadn’t see a wedding wing on his finger. Arrogant is not really my type, I thought as I shifted to my long list of things to do on the list of living. As I reached to turn off the radio, something caught my attention. I stopped to listen; a plane had crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center in New York. I listened for a few minutes, but I knew I had to go. The day’s happenings were unclear to me at the time so I hurried into the office, signed in and took my seat as an eerie feeling descended over me.
Everyone was glued to the television in the waiting room watching the attacks on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon. It was pin-drop silence as we tried to make sense of what didn’t make sense. Chaos was reigning in New York, but it was business as usual in Chicago in a weird sort of way. On some level, I believe we found solace, in the semblance of normalcy. Something horrific was taking place, but nobody knew what to do because there is no protocol when horror unfolds in your face.
When my name was called, I unglued myself from the T.V. and went in to the examining room. The normally over-confident, clean shaven doctor was visibly shaven. He was talking as if I wasn’t in the room—something about understanding what they did because of things that the United States had done. Then he started talking about his family in D.C. His mother and uncle lived there and one of them worked near the Pentagon. He said he’d been trying to reach someone all morning, but the phone lines were jammed. I sat quietly, not knowing what to say as I tried to steady the rhythm of my own heart.
After a few more minutes of talking and pacing, he snapped into doctor mode, examined my incision, and told me that all was well—with me. I thanked him and left, but my mind would go back to him in the days that followed. I sent him a card wishing him and his family well. He did not reply. When I returned to my car, I called my mother who lives in Chicago because I needed the assurance of hearing her voice on the other end of the phone.
I work for the Chicago Board of Education, and when I got to work, we watched and waited. We were in public building and, we didn’t know if the schools would remain open or close. Carmen, my friend and co-worker decided to reschedule the twins’ birthday outing. Like most everyone else, I went home to watch and wait in anticipation of what was to come. In the days that passed, life for us in Chicago returned to normal, but we are forever reminded of our vulnerability.
Sept 11, 2001 is branded in the minds of Americans—a day in which our lives changed forever in visible and non-visible ways. Safety became our first priority—something we can no longer take for granted.

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