Who the hell am I to write about September 11, 2001? I live on the other side of the country, I didn't lose anyone I know personally, I just have my own little story (as we all do) of where I was when I heard about it, and how it changed me.
But it's my blog, and here's my story.
My husband, our son, my mom and I were in Reno. My husband had to go see some clients there, and my mom and I tagged along. We're not gamblers by any stretch of the imagination, but we enjoy throwing some quarters in slot machines and people watching when the opportunity presents itself.
When I woke up on the morning of 9/11 my husband had left for work and my son was still sleeping; I turned on the faucet of the ridiculously humongous jetted tub, tossed in an excessive amount of bubble bath and climbed in. I looked out the wall of windows and noticed a flag on the top of a building across the street at half mast. Hmmmmmm.
I turned on the news as I did every morning. I had no idea what I was looking at; the images on the screen appeared to be some sort of a war zone. I switched to another channel, and then another. The commentators weren't helpful in the first moments as I tried to process what was going on, I just read and heard, "New York," "Washington, DC" and "Pennsylvania" amidst images of smoke and debris and people running and firetrucks and...chaos. In our streets. In multiple locations. What the hell was going on?
I reached for the phone as I soaked in that bubble bath and called my husband's cell; as it rang I glanced out the windows...that flag at half mast was suddenly far more ominous.
He was sitting in a coffee shop and had been watching the news for some time; he filled me in on the details as best he could. "I want to go home," I told him. He called his clients who as it turned out also wanted to go home; meeting canceled. I called my mom in her room; she, too, had been watching the news for some time. Like my husband had done, she waited for me to call her. I'm grateful for those last moments of sleep, blissfully unaware of how the world had changed.
We left Reno late in the morning; we drove through a fast food restaurant before we hit the highway because we realized that except for my son, none of us had eaten. My husband was sitting in the passenger seat trying to get through to all of our friends in New York City. Please let them be okay, I thought, while simultaneously feeling guilty for that thought because I knew so many people weren't okay, everything is different, our lives will never be the same, what is next, are we safe... My mind was spinning out of control with anxiety, fear, and uncertainty.
At the Reno-California border we had to stop at the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Border Station. They ask you a few cursory questions to make sure you aren't going to import some horrible plant disease. I rolled down my window and the agent asked me, "Do you have any vegetation in the vehicle?"
"No," I answered.
"Isn't that tomato and lettuce I see on your burger?" she challenged me.
"Uh, erm, eh..." I answered.
"KIDDING!" She laughed and waived me on.
The thing is, I laughed, too. We all did.
She doesn't know what a gift she gave me in that moment. She reminded me to keep laughing, to live in the moment, and not be afraid to enjoy myself and my family.
So as I drove away I took some deep breaths and turned off the radio.
I turned it back on half an hour later, in a far better place. And I know how lucky I was to have that luxury, to be surprised by a laugh and then disengage, only to return on my timetable.