With today being the anniversary of 9/11 I thought of what I was doing on this day, that awful morning.
As I lay here in my bed, it hit me that I’ve allowed the attack to continue to bother me and it, in turn, has affected those around me, especially my children.
I was driving down Speer Blvd. on my way to work in my van, listening to the morning talk show. It was a beautiful day, sun shining, birds singing and I’d just left my toddler son with my brother to babysit while I worked. At the crossroads of Lincoln and Speer, the DJs started talking about the Twin towers being hit by a plane and I remember getting mad, yelling at the radio “That’s not fucking funny, assholes” and turning off the radio. I drove the rest of the way to work in silence.
When I got to work, I entered with my usual, chipper good mornings and went to the break room to get some coffee. There were more people in there than I’d ever seen this morning and I commented as such, as I filled my cup. Noone was talking but I heard in the background those awful words “The tower is coming down!”
I looked at the television and sort of went numb. This couldn’t be happening… not here… not now…
I barely remember going into the staff room to get my route. I don’t remember if I even mapped it out. I just remember being in my truck, going through the motions. Every house I stopped at had the news on and it was giving updates. The second tower was down when I stopped at one home, their door was wide open and I heard a woman weeping. Her elderly husband was by the door, tears in his eyes as I said “good morning” He looked at me sadly and shook his head “No… no it isn’t…” I wrapped my arms around his frail shoulders and he wept on my shoulder saying “I never thought I’d live to see this day again… I was at Pearl… this can’t be happening again, no, please tell me this is a dream” I held him for a while, trying to console him but I didn’t know what to say. I was still numb.
When I left him, standing by his flagpole, I saw him lower it to half mast. I got into my truck and started to carry on with my day. I drove, maybe, a half block before the tears started. I could see the flag at half staff and I couldn’t stop crying.
When my boss called to see what was wrong, he told me someone had called in and he was concerned. I told him I was coming back in, that I couldn’t do this today, I needed to go home. He was nice and actually called everyone else back in too. Pickups were cancelled for the rest of the day and the next.
The drive back home was surreal. Cars seemed to be moving slower and more and more I saw the Flag waved from cars and buildings. When I got home, I took my son in my arms and sobbed. My brother, who hadn’t been watching television all day, asked me what happened. When I told him he looked at me, dumbfounded. He whispered something then raced to the television and turned on the news. All he and I could talk about was our little brother who had graduated from boot camp only a year before. Luckily, he was not deploy-able because he was a guard at one of the military prisons but, at the time we didn’t know.
The next day I took my son outside and after a while, he asked where the “ah pains” were. That was his way of saying airplanes. I told him that all the airplanes were sleeping today because they were really tired from flying all the time. He nodded and smiled “Them needs a day off, like mama!” he hugged me tight and ran off to play on the slide.
That next week is kind of a blur for me. I know I went to work and did mommy things but…. they were almost robotic. Then came the day I heard the airplane, flying low. I’d heard that sound only once before and it terrified me. I was halfway between my truck and the home I was to pick up at and dove for the shrubs by the front door. I looked out and saw the biggest airplane I’d ever seen flying low, seeming to crawl across the sky. It had a disc I had never seen before on the top and it scared me so bad that, when he got home, the homeowner found me sobbing behind his bushes.
PTSD sucks. I’ve suffered from it most of my adult life but NEVER like I did after 9/11. It’s taken years to be able to leave my house without a Xanax or three under my belt. Sometimes I hear an airplane today and feel myself start to panic. My children know about 9/11 but they, I hope, will never feel the terror I felt, halfway across the country from New York. There are theories that our government was involved, that those aboard the planes were plants of our own people but, for me, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that someone destroyed my comfort and my ability to feel safe. The actions in Aurora Colorado, just 20 miles from me reinforced that. Columbine happened while I was a school bus driver only one district away. It makes me truly wonder if anyone is truly safe anywhere.
Especially after the life I’ve led.