It’s 7:26 AM, September 11th, and Michael is trying his best to get Cassie out the door. Right now she’s fighting him tooth and nail. Michael’s a patient man, but Cassie is really pushing it this morning. They’ve got to head out for preschool in a few minutes, and she’s refusing to stand up so he can brush her teeth. The whole process takes only a few moments, and if Cass would just stop arguing, she’d be done by now. Meanwhile, Sam refuses to settle down and nurse. She keeps popping on and off the nipple, every now and then stopping to grin at me like she’s discovered some wildly hilarious new game. It’s infuriating and it makes it almost impossible for me to type.
Thus goes our mundane life on the morning of the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. I suppose I can’t not take time today to think about what happened five years ago. It’s like asking someone from my parents’ generation, “Do you remember where you were when JFK was shot?” Only now we ask, “Do you remember where you were when the World Trade Center was hit?”
I remember. I was sitting on my bed, not ten feet from where I am right now, with a drawing board in my lap, working on a colored pencil sketch that would end up taking me over a year and a half to complete. It was the last real piece of artwork I would ever attempt for a while. We used to keep a small TV in the bedroom back then, but I didn’t have it turned on. It was too peaceful and quiet that morning for me to listen to a bunch of yakkin’ on the tube. So when the phone rang, I was caught completely off-guard.
“Oh my god! Oh my god, are you okay?! Is Michael okay?!”
It was my sister, shrieking hysterically. I had no idea what was going on, and couldn’t get her to calm down.
“Of course I’m okay. Carolyn, what are you talking about?”
“They said there’s another plane! It’s headed your way, for Langley! Are you okay?”
“Plane? What plane? What’s going on?”
“Somebody crashed a plane into the World Trade Center! It’s on fire!”
I finally turned on the TV and saw it. Maybe an hour earlier that morning, the first plane had hit one of the towers. The second went shortly after that. Cocooned in my quiet little world, with no TV or radio on, I had missed it. My sister Carolyn was right in the middle of it. She lived in New Jersey and commuted to New York each day for work, so she was only a few blocks away when it happened. She didn’t know where many of her friends were (one worked in a building right next to the WTC). She’d heard a rumor that more planes had been hijacked and were being flown to other targets, including one on its way to Langley Air Force Base, only five minutes from where Michael and I lived. She was afraid we’d been killed.
I spent the rest of the day sitting by the phone, watching the news. Carolyn was stuck in New York. My dad was home in Arkansas. My mom was off somewhere in Michigan, I think, on a trip with friends. Nobody could get a hold of anyone else but me, so I became call central, keeping tabs on where the family was. I relayed messages back and forth, assured people that the rest of the family was fine, and sat in stunned silence when I wasn’t on the phone.
The next day, I called the Army Reserves to remind them I was still available for duty. I think that was the scariest damned phone call I’ve ever made. I did not want to go on active duty. I had been on inactive status the previous two years and was planning on getting out. But I was a captain in the Reserves, and I had an obligation, so I called and said I was still in and would go wherever they needed me. It was a few months before they called me back and asked me to anywhere, though. When they finally did contact me, the only place they wanted me to go was Germany for a three-week exercise. Apparently the Army was short on bodies to run this particular shin-dig. Most of the active duty units that normally participated were all in Afghanistan.
That was the only place I ever went for the Army after September 11th. I was supposed to go to Korea later that summer to fill in a spot at another exercise, but I was pregnant with Cassie by then and so sick all the time that I could barely stand up. So I called my Reserves contact and asked to sit that one out. Then the same day I would have arrived in Seoul, I ended up in the emergency room with a torqued ovary. My obstetrician had to operate on me while I was four months pregnant to put that puppy back in its place.
I left the Army Reserves not long after that. Between the scare with the ovary and other problems that cropped up during my pregnancy, I realized there was no way in hell I ever wanted to be separated from my child. I resigned my commission, wondering if I was a coward for getting out when I knew so many other women with children were going to war. Some days I still wonder.
I live a nice life, all bitching and moaning aside. I have two happy, healthy children and a husband who loves me. I have a nice house and plenty of nice things to go with it. I enjoy my work and my biggest worry is finding enough time in the day to accomplish everything I want to do. In many ways, five years after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, I’m still cocooned in my quiet little world. I wonder how long that might last.
Some silly artwork on a serious day. I drew these last night, just to goof off for a bit. The little witch reminds me of Cass.
Ugly toons, drawn 10 September 2006