He came in for a long weekend to see a reading of a play of mine and now he was eager to get back to work at a new job he’d just taken.
I set a “flash session” on my computer which would dial up AOL and download my email and as the main AOL page appeared on the screen momentarily, it was a photo of the World Trade Center town with a large billow of smoke around it and a headline that announced that it had collapsed. I couldn’t conceive of what that meant, how it could have happened, but I assumed fire. I called for Loren to come see the TV in the other room because of this strange news.
We turned on the TV and of course it was something far worse and far less fathomable. Even at that hour (a little before 7 AM our time) it was clear that there would be no return to New York for him that day. All commercial planes were grounded. What was going on in NYC was less clear. Both towers had collapsed by that time and the word that it was domestic airplanes hijacked by terrorists was already accepted. Rumors were rampant that there were other hijacked planes still in the air hours later.
Hours ticked by as we watched the coverage on the TV in dribbles. I could stand no more than 30 minutes of it, until the anchors began repeating themselves and the numbers they postulated were too horrific I would have to switch it off. It became clear that this was not only a deliberate act, but it was a larger plan that involved multiple planes. There were no names at that hour of people to blame, so we just worried for every person who was close to the tragedy that was so huge we had no way to even comprehend it or even hope to ever understand it fully. We both knew so many people who commuted and passed through the subway station there, the list was too long to contemplate. The numbers of dead were thought to top 10,000.
Loren wanted to go to the airport, he wanted badly to get back to New York and insisted that I take him. He thought he could get a plane to Philadelphia or even Pittsburgh and take the train from there. There was no way to contact the airline, all lines were jammed and I told him he’d have to sit tight and be patient. Around 10 AM I felt like I needed to do something. So we put the dog on a leash and walked the four blocks to the polling place and I voted in the mid-term election that day. I figured if this was a terrorist act, the least I could do is show that I was still participating in the democracy where I lived. We talked briefly with the other people at the polling place, which at that time was in a private home.
I had visions that the men who trained for this act had their own 737 jet on some runway in the Middle East or North African desert that they practiced on. (At that point Libya was still being bandied about as a suspect.)
At some point in the day I was able to get a hold of my husband, who was supposed to board a plane late in the day (our time) to return from Frankfurt, Germany where he’s been working on a show. He was distraught and of course felt very alone and adrift in a foreign country watching everything from afar. We knew that he was going to have to sit tight in Europe for at least a few days.
Later in the day other folks came over to sit with us and watch the news, there was nothing else to do until we got too upset to watch and went out to get some sandwiches (I didn’t really have any food in the house).
That night was lonely and quiet. I went to bed hoping that my husband would be able to return quickly and safely. But my worries about these little things like getting him back by my side felt so insignificant and insulting to those familes who were only coming to grasp what had happened to them that day when their families were torn asunder.
The skies over LA had no usual helicopters, small planes and commercial jets but as I laid in bed I could have sworn I heard military jets flying over. I’m not a pessimistic person, but I thought that this was the day our lives would change.
Consider this an open forum – where were you?