Seven years ago, started as any other day. I was nearly six months pregnant with my first child KK. I was working as a supervising attorney in a division that prosecuted child abuse cases. Hubby and I were packing to fly to Maine for my best friend's wedding that weekend. I was busy, stressed out, self absorbed, and clueless about how much motherhood was going to change my life.
I was in court that morning, handling routine motions. There were more attorneys than clients present, and in between cases, we attorneys whispered like school children, catching up on the latest goings-on. I think it was the clerk who'd had a call from someone downstairs in the main office, that started the news around that there had been a plane crash in New York City. Still oblivious, I handled my cases, talked with co-workers, and remained unaware.
It's not that I'm heartless, but you hear about a tragedy miles away and say the appropriate words of concern and then go back to your life. After all, tragedy was a part of my daily life in those days - the kids and families who were devastated by physical and sexually abuse, You learn to turn off and just discuss the graphic details of abuse without flinching. I remember teaching new attorneys that you had to be able to describe body parts neutrally to put the kids at ease when they talked to you. Catastrophe and heartbreak were normal parts of my days, so a plane crash received a few words of sympathy and that it was back to the business at hand.
I remained in my bubble as I finished my cases and returned to my office. I don't remember what I might have been thinking, but I am sure it was centered around the wedding that weekend and going home to Maine. At my office door was a stack of pink message slips and I quickly ran through them as I returned PH's call. PH asked "if I'd heard about it?" I told him I'd heard about a plane crash that morning in NYC, but couldn't image why that warranted a phone call in the middle of the morning. And then I heard it, the conversation spoke round the world that day - two planes, the Twin Tower, another plane down in Pennsylvania, another at the Pentagon. PH hadn't been able to reach his brother , Peter, who lived in NYC. I wondered about my childhood neighbor, John, who lived in the middle of the city. I called my Mom in Maine and she was with John's mother - still no word. People were gathered around the television sets in the courthouse. I stood by with co-workers in the jury room, watching the images of mass destruction play over and over. PH and I called the airports and quickly decided to drive to Maine. I said that if the world was ending I wanted to be in Maine with family (slightly dramatic but I was six months pregnant). When I couldn't get through to my doctor, PH called his Dad, who was an Ob/Gyn doctor to discuss the long drive, and his Dad offer his giant Cadillac for the trip so I could stretch out and be more comfortable. I remember telling my boss that I was leaving a day early for vacation and he said"GO! Go be with your family." What I remember most about these events is that it felt like time had stopped and all this activity was in slow motion as though sloshing through cement.
It was late afternoon before I remembered to eat lunch. As I stood in line to pick up my take out salad, an unknown women approached me. I am sure I looked as shocked as many other people there, but I just happened to be wearing a rather obvious maternity top. This women paid for her food and then she walked over to me. She put her hand on my stomach and said "You have to remember that in times like this, that baby is what matters." I nodded and mumbled some polite words as I pulled back from this stranger. At the time, I thought she was a bit of a whack-job. Only now, I understand what she meant.
I was lucky that day. No one I knew was injured or killed, we drove to Maine without incident, and I was able to witness my best friend saying her vows. Life went on, but suddenly I was aware that the privilege of being a U.S. citizen does not guarantee you safety from the world outside. Nor does it guarantee your protection from even your own government, as I learned in the days and weeks that followed. The decisions and politics that followed that day have divided this nation even seven years after the fact. Yet for today, I believe that a majority of us will recall that tragic day, as well as the people who lost friends and family. While not united politically, we are united in memory and appreciation of those who acted as heroes that day. I remember.