Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Everyone who was alive and old enough to be aware remembers what they were doing on September 11th, 2001.  Everyone has a story, and though it breaks my heart to read them, I do it anyway.  Especially Allahpundit's account.

I still have issues of Time, Newsweek and other magazines from those days right after the attacks.  I don't know why I kept them; I'm rather famous in my house for purging the closets, tossing things that once meant something to me.  Still, I can not bear to throw them out.

Nothing remarkable happened early that morning.  We lived in a duplex near IAH.  The Bigun was twelve, the Little Critter, just three.  The morning routine consisted of waking both girls and hustling them to the car to get the Bigun to her private school on time.  We were almost late that morning, due to a bus on fire in the HOV lane.  We laughed at being able to predict the next day's headline in the paper, the lead stories on the evening news.

A kiss and a wave, and then the Little Critter and I drove home, a little less hurried this time.  Nothing pressing awaited us but a date with some children's television so I could get some housework done.

Now we lived on the edges of the 'hood on the north side.  It wasn't the worst place, but the nickname for the area across the freeway was "Gunspoint" if that tells you anything.  So when there was a furious pounding on my door that didn't cease, I was startled and a little paranoid.  One hears home invasion stories that begin like that, and I was armed with nothing more lethal than a plastic broom.  I'm also too short to see out of any peephole created for any door, so I dragged the footstool over to see who was breaking my door down.

It was the neighbor who shared the duplex, Robert.  A huge, friendly, burly black guy, he often sat outside with me telling stories and watching kids play.  I couldn't imagine what had worked him up, and I'd only seen him really agitated once before, when he'd been drinking quite a bit more than was good for him.  I didn't think he looked drunk, so I opened the door.

He yelled at me "Turn on the TV - they flew a plane into the World Trade Center!"

The Little Critter was quickly displaced to her sister's room to watch her shows, and Robert sat beside me on the couch for over an hour, our faces mirror images of horror and shock as we watched the second plane hit, then the towers fall - one, then the other.  Then news of the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania where so many others perished.

The morning held so much horror.  It was all I could do to keep it together in front of the LC, and it was all I could do to keep her otherwise entertained.  In what I am sure was a boon to her three-year-old thought process, she got anything she asked for - eating in her sister's room, playing with her sister's things, watching Blue's Clues and Veggie Tales videos without end.  Anything to keep her out of the den and away from those images.

Somewhere before noon, I remembered that Houston has a vast array of petrochemical facilities, ones that would likely make enticing and explosive targets.  I urgently needed to get to the Bigun, just to see her face and hold her close and bring her home.  Into the car again we went, racing to the school, arriving to chaos as other parents rushed in compelled by the same urgency.  I hadn't cried at all until I saw her, hugged her to me.

One friend had parents coming, but unable to get there right away.  I remember we stayed with her.  They didn't ask much, they were told a little bit of the story in class.  I wanted to get away, but I knew the Bigun had to stay with her friend.  Once the parents arrived, we drove home at a more reasonable speed; the panic was beginning to wear off.  But I spent the rest of the day letting the kids take care of themselves as I watched the horrible images on the television.

And though I was struck mute often by the images and stories and suppositions, I think the thing that finally drove it all home for me was the silence the next day.  Living so close to the airport we were accustomed to planes flying over several times an hour.  But for days, as I'd sit on the front porch and watch the skies, nothing flew over at all.  Every plane grounded, the sky left empty.

When they started flying again, I wanted nothing more than to go to New York to do something.  Anything.  I felt helpless to help.  I had nothing to give.

I wondered if anything would ever be the same again.

Things aren't.  They never are after events of this magnitude.  There's Before, then there's After.