i will spend today quietly

It seems kind of appropriate that the weather should be gray and clammy today, so unlike that gorgeous sunny morning five years ago. I will always remember how blue the sky was that day. I had my moment of silence this morning, walking across campus in the foggy chill, listening to the chapel bells tolling 32 times. They’ll stay quiet for the rest of the day, and probably, so will I.

I have never written about September 11th here, for a few reasons, but the main reason is that I’ve never felt like that story was mine to tell. Although I was panicked and afraid, I wasn’t anywhere near danger, and although I, like everyone else, know several people with a near-miss story (“I should have been on x flight, I should have been at y place on business, my brother lives in Manhattan”), no one I love was anywhere near danger. While I’ll likely always remember all the odd little details I remember now, like what I was wearing, and what I tried to work on that day, and so on, it just seems kind of silly to tell that here like it’s a story that matters. I was wearing black bootcut pants and a pink boatneck shirt and my hair was in a ponytail. I was working on a recruitment email that, when I reviewed it a few days later, turned out to be absolutely riddled with typos and grammatical errors and shitty writing. I don’t know what I had for lunch that day, if in fact I ate lunch at all. Whatever. You probably remember what you were wearing and what you were doing that day too. What you were probably not doing that day was dying, or waiting for a call that might never come. Those people are the ones with stories to tell – not me with my stupid ponytail and my crappy email.

The thing I wanted more than anything in the world was to be at home with my family. I had only been in my job for just over a month at that point and I didn’t know my coworkers well, and I was still trying to figure out how to behave around them, and I didn’t want to deal with this with all these virtual strangers around. I wanted my mom and my dad and my sisters and my dogs around me. I couldn’t reach anyone on the phone. We were all hoping to be dismissed early, but the orders never came, and since no one else was leaving, I felt I too should stay. These days, there wouldn’t even be a question. I’d take personal leave and go home. But on that day, I stayed, and I tried to work.

When I finally left to go home, I had to stop to get gas before my hour drive, and I remember very clearly going in to the gas station to pay and noticing how, even though it was full of people, it was so quiet. Though I’d rarely paid attention to planes in the air, on that afternoon the sky seemed quiet too. And throughout my drive home, I kept flipping channels on the radio, trying to find some music to distract me, and there wasn’t a single channel playing music. It was all news. And the news, by then, was pretty quiet.

So it seems right to have kind of a quiet day today.

Comments 5

  • A lovely post. Stories of people who weren’t directly affected, and still profoundly affected, are very important and I find them more interesting to read than the obvious, dramatic ones.

  • Thanks for writing this.

    I think that I wrote my story the following spring, when I worked on my thesis show. I didn’t recognize it then–at least not as much as I do now–but it was something that I distinctly wrote in Spring 2002, not any spring before that. The line I always come back to is “I will be safe today.”

    Anyway.

    Let me know and I’ll send you a copy. I just hope you like, um, “lo-fi” recordings.

  • um.. on a semi-related subject… do you still have my American flag/ribbon pin that I lent you like 4 years ago?

  • […] I don’t, actually, remember what I was wearing. I never do, in times of gravely bad news, except once. That was for my sister’s stillbirth, and I remember what I had to wear the day after that, a blue suit for a business presentation, only because I accidentally left it at the other end of the country, where it hung in a closet for years, until I finally needed it again for job interviews and got it mailed to me. […]

  • …quietly typing.

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