Thursday, September 11, 2008


I stayed up late last night doing some work. Maybe subconsciously I was hoping that I would just magically sleep through this day.

When I finally got my feet on the floor this morning, I wasn't sure why I was getting up. I don't feel so good: a combination of cold medicine and lack of water overnight has my head feeling like tight, hallowed-out coconut. But as is my routine, I got up and turned on Fox News. And it occurred to me that I really don't want to relive this day. Within minutes of listening to the sober news coverage, I was crying, just I was seven years ago.

I was thinking I might write about where I was seven years ago today. But where I was physically, driving between New Orleans and southern Illinois, is not particularly important. Where I was metaphorically, isolated from the rest of the world, is probably what had the greatest impact on me. And in many ways, it is where I remain today.

Jack Bauer and I were driving back from a long weekend trip with his parents in New Orleans. After a weekend of good eating, we got into the car and were on the road by 7 AM listening to CDs the whole way. We arrived in West Memphis, AR about lunch time. Jack had mentioned seeing flags in Mississippi and Tennessee flying at half-staff.

"I wonder if Dick Cheney died," he mumbled.

We pulled into a KFC/Taco Bell/gas station to get something to eat and stretch our legs and relieve our coffee-filled bladders. As I waited to place our order, a guy walked up to his friend working behind the counter.

"Gas has already gone up $.50," he said, shaking his head with a wry smirk.

Not normally one to talk to strangers, but flags at half staff and gas prices going up, piqued my interest.

"What's going on? Why is gas up?" I innocently asked.

I was stunned by his response. I thought he was joking with me at first, but I could see from the reaction of those around him that something serious had happened. I mean really, how could two of the largest buildings in the world be taking down with planes. It seemed like someone's imagination run amock.

Jack and I ate mostly in silence and disbelief. Someone helped us find a local radio station so we could hear about what was going on. As Jack drove, I sat in silence, tears unable to stop streaming down my cheeks. I knew what he was thinking about.

The best man at our wedding, a NJ National Guardsman, worked across the street from Ground Zero in the World Financial Center. Our thoughts turned to him and his family, a wife and two little girls. An MP, our friend was the type to run into danger. We didn't have any phone numbers for them with us. We'd have to get home first. The next day we learned that they were in Florida. On vacation. They were safe.

I didn't know any one who was killed that day. But my life has been forever altered. Seven years later, I sit in a hotel room alone typing to strangers. My husband is attending school. Just as he was seven years ago.

In the years since 2001, Jack was pulled out of the IRR (Individual Ready Reserve) and placed in the Army Reserves. He has deployed to Iraq and stayed on for another tour. He has now returned to Active Duty Army.

The isolation along the way has been self-imposed, a comes from desire to find people who understand and live the lasting significance of that day. It took a while. You people were not easy for me to find.

And as I reflect on this day seven years ago, I keeping thinking that 9/11 was the day we as a country woke up. As I reflect on the last seven years, I keeping thinking that most of America has fallen back asleep, only reminded occasionally that things go bump in the night, but are easily fixed with a bit of parental magic. I hope, sincerely hope, that at least one day a year, most people remember that they were awake once and think about those who still are on their behaves.

No matter how much I wanted to sleep in this morning, I knew I couldn't sleep away this day. I am wide awake.

Fox News is running its ticker with just the names of those who died on Sept. 11, 2001. When I started writing this post, they were on the C's. Now they are just getting to the M's. *sigh*

UPDATE 1209: Fox News is on the S's.