Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Day Before the World Ended

Tomarrow the space here will be for someone else. Someone I never knew or met. Someone who died at the hands of madmen on that morning five years ago. It will be my only post tomarrow, so today I'm going to give my "where were you?" story.

On September 10th, 2001 our little family was still intact. My husband, probably filled with a premonition of his own impending doom had decided to fly to Detroit to visit his brothers for a few days. We didn't know it at the time but he had only almost exactly five months left.

So on that Tuesday morning we all awoke bright and early in order to get to the St. Louis airport in time for his noontime flight. It was a four hour drive to the airport. The trip was uneventful, aside from frequent bathroom stops for our younguns. They were playing 'hooky' from school that day, with our blessing, so we could all see Daddy off.

We got there with an hour to spare. I parked in Short Term.
We all blew through Security with no problem. I tossed my purse and keys into the tray to be X-rayed without a thought (this would later be eerily prophetic, as I will tell in a bit). Hubby's carry-on got an obligatory 8 second pause, lean in and squint bit from the worker operating the scanner. My younguns passed through the metal detector. We, too, filed through without a beep.
All of us, as a family, strolled to the departure gate. Just another day in a big city airport. It was packed full, people all doing much the same thing as us-seeing friends and family off at the departure gates or welcoming them at their arrival gate. We could never imagine that this would be the last time we would be able to do this.

Soon after we got to the gate they began boarding. There were the usual hugs and kisses and we lingered until he made the turn in the jetway, pausing to turn around and give us a wave.

Anyway, the younguns and I made the long drive home, again , uneventful or at least as uneventful as a trip with young kids can be. The rest of the evening, I really don't recall. Probably because it was so patently normal and routine. I do remember Bill calling me that evening to let me know he got to Detroit alright and he was at his baby brothers. The usual prodigal son type celebration was being held in his honor.

The next morning I got the younguns up and off to school. About 7:30 a.m., central time I fired up the computer and logged in to a liver disease chat room where I regularly went to talk to other caregivers and those who were ill with bunk livers and awaiting transplants. It kept me sane. I was pretty isolated out here in the hills and it was nice to "talk" to others who knew exactly where I was coming from.

The TV was on in the other room, the Today show was yammering away. I was working on my 3rd cup of coffee. Someone had just typed me wanting to know what genotype my hubby's Hep C was and what "his numbers" were, meaning his bloodwork and liver chemistry...just typical stuff on that forum. I was typing a reply when I heard Matt Laurer saying something about a plane hitting one of the World Trade Center towers.
I quickly signed off: "BRB, guys...a plane just hit the WTC in NY...gotta go see what's up"

I never got back to the forum.

Like everyone else that day, time stood still, we were frozen, watching the horror unfurl in real time and being totally and completely helpless to stop it. It just wasn't real...we didn't want it to be real...and yet it was.
When the second plane plowed into the south tower I completely freaked out...I suddenly felt very afraid, very vunerable...scared. This was bad-very bad. Scarey,end of the world type bad craziness. I needed to talk to someone. I called my brother in law in Detroit, hoping my husband was up. Amazingly, I got lucky and got a line that wasn't jammed solid,yet. The call went right through.
He answered the phone. I heard his voice and began babbling like a damn fool-
"Ohmygod,ohmygod honey, turn on the TV NOW! Ohmygod...what the hell is happening??!!Ohmygod...."
I was near tears.
He flipped on the TV. There was a pause on the line.
"Muthaf**ker..." was all he could say.

I stepped outside with the phone and sat on the porch, I couldn't bear to watch what was going on. I could hear him hollar for his brother and his wife "Lookit this shit! Check it out...what the f*ck, man?! What the hell is going on?...Yeah, that's in New York, f*ckin' Trade Center, man. What the f*ck?..."

I think that pretty much summed up that day, in a most typical all American vulgarity: What The F*ck?!

The conversation got very erratic, both of us had our focus elsewhere. I could hear the tv going in the background there. It was on a different network than mine,and I could still hear the tv from the porch so that added to the weirdness.But just being connected by a phoneline was very comforting. He speculated that this could become very bad and that he might not be able to get home when planned. Then he insisted that I go get the kids from school.
I argued that we, being in the middle of nowhere, were pretty safe. Whoever's doing this are going for major US cities. I'm not worried for them. Best not be upsetting them. They'll be fine at school.
He countered that now nobody could be sure of anything-"Go get the girls."
In my gut, I knew he had a good point, but in typical good wife fashion, I wasn't going to give him that.
My mommy sense was telling me they'd be alright.

I don't remember how long we were on the phone or how the call ended. I remember the morning sun streaming through the pine trees and warming my arms, it was the start of a bright and cloudless day...just like it was in New York and I remembered thinking how many others would never feel the warmth of the sun again.
And no, I didn't go fetch the kids. Although I learned later some parents had.
When the bus dropped them off, I kept the tv off. (but I did have it on, muted in the bedroom.) By that afternoon the carnage that had began that morning had ended. Now all we could do was dust off, mourn and get to figuring out what the hell had happened.
I tried to keep normal as I could. But the kids had heard stuff at school. So we talked. This was one night when they really wanted their Daddy. Me too.
My God, so many kids out there who no longer had a Daddy...or Mommy. Unreal.

Anyway, the next few days were a blur. Air travel was at a stand still. My husbands flight was scheduled for the morning of the 14th. We played it by ear. As luck would have it the airlines were finally getting it back together, but my...what a difference that return trip would be!

The traffic into STL was at a crawl. As I slowly inched towards the entry there were flashing signs advising us that we could no longer use short term parking, we would have to pick up our people from the lower level of the parking garage(?). They weren't even allowing any cars to get near the terminal-goodbye to the white zone. I could see armed SWAT-like guys posted atop any elevation, the parking garage, the roof of the terminal, any place that afforded a clear overview of the area. SLPD and airport security cars was everywhere. It was very spooky and unsettling. It took several passes before I finally spotted Bill. The flight had left him wore out and aggravated. It probably would have tried the patience of a healthy person, but in his weakened state any delay, any hassel would have seemed 10 times worse than it was.
But he was glad to get home, very glad.

Once home that evening, for some reason I had to find something in my purse-I don't even recall what it was, but it was one of those things where, in shear aggravation, you just dump everything out on the bed.

A chill ran over me.

There amongst the checkbooks, the wallet, hairbrush, numerous pens, lipstick and grocery store receipts was my husband's razor knife. A neighbor had borrowed it earlier last week and had returned it the Friday before the 11th. Since they had met me in our driveway just as I was fixing to leave that day, I had just put it in my purse and never gave it another thought. It had been in my purse the whole time.

Even when we had gone through security at the airport that day.

By that time it had been reported that the hijackers had took over the planes brandishing what the media called 'box cutters'. 'Round these parts we call them razor knives.
Just damn creepy.


Blogger Pamela said...

A great post... as usual.

I flew home the night before... and was so glad that I had changed my ticket to a day earlier. I was supposed to fly out of Washington DC on 9/11 - but the son-in-law in the military had a shift change that wouldn't not accomodate my 2 hour trip to the airport from Dover AFB. So, I was blessed to be home,

9/10/2006 8:10 PM  
Blogger white trash republican said...

Pamela, Oh My God. Man, kinda makes ya wonder, don't it?

9/11/2006 12:21 AM  
Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

Your grammar is unconventional but you sure know how to tell a story. I'm sorry I had to read that just before bed but I didn't have time to visit earlier today.

9/11/2006 2:02 AM  

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