Eleven years ago, I was at home with my two wee ones. It was a beautiful morning — blue skies, cool-ish breezes, and the promise of fall was in the air.
I don’t remember what I had planned for the day, but since I had a one year old and an almost three year old, I’m certain our day revolved around nap time.
Not long after he left for work, Pete called me from the office and said, “There’s some weird shit going on in New York. Apparently an airplane crashed into a building or something.” I remember that so clearly because, unlike me, Pete’s not one to drop a lot of profanity into casual conversation, so that was a sign that he was flummoxed.
Can you remember how much the internet has changed the way you get news? By 2001 — just a few short years since I had welcomed the internet into my life — I had already radically shifted away from watching TV, listening to the radio, or reading newspapers and gone instead to getting my news online.
Thus it was that my first instinct on that morning was to go to my computer — with its dial-up connection — and see what was going on. Remember how different the internet was then? There wasn’t so much of it and it was slow and often clunky. There were a lot of text-based sites, not too many interactive sites, and no social media. Forget about iPhones, Droids, and apps.
The internet was basically down for the count that day, so I called Pete back to get more information. He told me to turn on the TV and check for news, which hadn’t even occurred to me, so I did. Sure enough, there were images of the World Trade Center with smoke billowing out of it. My girls were in the living room with me, playing with their toys and chattering happily.
I hadn’t been watching for very long when the second plane hit. Like so many other people, I saw it happen live, not recorded. The shock of that moment still makes my heart jump a little. I was standing and my knees went weak. I staggered back to the sofa while I stared in disbelief at what was happening in front of my eyes. My babies were totally oblivious and kept playing.
One of my brothers lived nearby and I called him to see if he had heard what was going on. He ended up coming over and spending the day watching the news with me. In the meantime, my children asked for snacks and juice and demanded my attention. Of course they did. They had no idea that the world had just changed forever.
Somehow, time moved forward. I fixed lunch. I changed diapers on one and escorted the other one to the potty. I insisted that my girls take their usual naps. Somehow, I managed to be a parent.
Later in the afternoon, I’d had enough. I had bags of flower bulbs and it suddenly became imperative that I plant them right now. While Ellie napped and my brother watched the news, I took Grace outside and we planted daffodils and crocuses. It was all I could think to do. We dug together and planted. She was just old enough to understand that planting things led to flowers, although the time until the next spring seemed impossibly far way to her. I wondered what the world would be like next spring.
The next spring, those flowers did bloom and I remembered September 11th. In fact, every year since then, whenever I see those flowers, I remember that afternoon. Blue skies. Cool breezes. Airplanes flying into buildings.