There are three things in my life that are indelibly etched in my brain and my heart. The first was the death of John F. Kennedy. I was in third grade and it was my first recognition of events on a larger scale…up until then I had been in my child’s world going to school, playing with friends and toys and unaware. We were shuffled into buses and sent home early and I distinctly remember sitting in our dark house with my mom mourning the loss of our president.
The second event was the day my mother called to say she had breast cancer. She is everything to me and I was devastated not only for her, but the domino effect. It meant my daughter and I, three generations, now had to worry about breast cancer. Thankfully my mom caught hers early and she is fine.
And the third life-changing event was September 11th. I worked further downtown at that time. The first plane hit and the agency went to the roof in horror. No one was that panicked yet. We all thought they’d put out the fire. Then the second plane hit and reports of other hijacked planes came in. Fear set in especially when our cellphones didn’t work. I managed to get through to my children’s school and was told they were safe. After waiting a while, I decided to walk to get them over 70 blocks, as the trains, buses and taxis weren’t available.
When I got to school I found they were the last kids there. We sat on the steps outside the school and I tried to explain to them what had happened. I’ll never forget the look on their faces. They didn’t understand why we had to walk home clear across town through Central Park. It was the most ironic walk ever as it was such a beautiful day yet so ugly. F14’s flew overhead and every time one passed you could only think “What now?”
My daughter stared at me right into my eyes and said, “I didn’t think grown-ups could get sad.” There’s nothing worse than having to explain to your innocent child there are people in the world that don’t know you, but still want to do evil things in the world.
Last night I asked my daughter if she remembered that day. She has a vague recollection. She remembers the walk across the park, making thank you drawings and taking food to the fireman, but the day is not imprinted in her mind like it is mine. Part of me is glad for that. I still jump at the sound of a loud noise or a low flying plane instantly brings me back to that day. And I have never gone to Ground Zero but choose to pay my respects from a distance. I can’t bring myself to go stand where over 3,000 innocent people lost their lives.
But I’ll never forget them or that day.