Eleven years ago today, It was my husband's day off work. We were hosting an exchange student from Sweden (Hi, Peter!), and he'd been at our house less than two weeks. He left that morning for school, and Tim and I sat around the kitchen table drinking coffee and reading the paper. Lulu was only about a year and a half old, and she was toddling around and playing with her toys.
I overheard a neighbor talking on the phone with someone when I went out to get the paper that morning, and she sounded upset. I couldn't hear her exact words, but I made a mental note to check in with her later to make sure everything was alright. I didn't want to interrupt her phone call.
And then we got our own phone call. We had no idea what was going on until Peter's family called from Sweden to make sure he was safe. They knew we lived near Washington, DC, so we had to reassure them that everything was fine. Shortly after that, the school dismissed, and Peter walked in. I turned the TV on just in time to watch the first tower fall.
The whole time, Lulu was running around just like she would on any other day. She didn't understand what was going on. And I'm grateful for that. We needed that distraction.
Three days later, my mom and I were scheduled to meet at my grandmother's house in Boston. They reopened the airports, and my mom flew. I drove, which is what I had planned on from the start. I used to drive the route a dozen times a year or so, but this drive was different.
Fire trucks were parked on highway overpasses, and firemen waved flags and hands at passersby. People were decorating bridges and buildings with messages of togetherness and hope. And then I crossed the Hudson. I slowed down on the bridge, just like everyone else on the road did, and watched the dust and smoke cloud that had replaced the Twin Towers.
I don't remember how long it took for the sense of togetherness and unity to fade, but it wasn't very long. I only wish we could all remember that day; not for the horrible tragedy, but for how we all came together and supported one another in the aftermath. Maybe we shouldn't need a world-altering tragedy to bring people together as human beings. Maybe just being human together should be enough.