I had listened to the news driving in to work as usual, but I remember nothing unusual about the broadcast. I parked the car and walked down the sweltering sidewalks toward the Harry Ransom Center on the University of Texas campus.
I had no idea what was happening as I walked; no one around me seemed at all alarmed or concerned. We were just having a normal morning. I sipped my iced coffee and walked briskly, probably thinking about what was on my plate at work that day, until I reached campus about 15 minutes later.
When I walked into our office suite the receptionist stopped me.
"Did you hear the news?"
"No. What news?"
"A plane just flew into the World Trade Center in New York. They don't think it was an accident."
I have no idea what I said after that, but I do remember that I did not take her seriously. Surely she had misunderstood. Surely she was exaggerating. She did have a tendency to sensationalize many things. I felt certain that what she said could not be right, or, at the very least, was not as serious as she was making it out to be.
I continued back to my office and turned on my computer, began arranging the day's tasks. Soon, the guy in the office next to me said "another one hit," and, curious to figure out what people knew that I didn't, I wandered back out of my office and into the conference room.
We all watched it on TV.
I still had no idea what it meant, what the repercussions would be. It was something happening to other people, far away. Even when the Gutsy Dad (whom I had been dating for two years, but had not yet married) called to (a) see if I was handling the news alright and (b) let me know the next few days would be unpredictable, I had no comprehension that these events would effect his work, let alone the shape of my life.
It was not for several hours, not until our boss sent us all home to be with loved ones, or maybe not even until that evening that I began to grasp it. I sat on my bed in my apartment crying and worrying and wondering what would happen to the man I loved.
Now, ten years later, I've become better at this, the sensing of the moments when nothing-will-be-what-it-was-like-before, but back then (and for years after, really) I remained so naive and optimistic that I tended to ignore just how serious things could be until they were way beyond serious.
On Sunday the 16th, 2001, I sat in church with so many others. I do not remember what anthem we sang as a choir. I do not remember the lessons or the prayers or the sermon. I remember only a draining out of my soul, a complete loss of optimism, and an intense desire for it all to be fixed and returned to normal. Knowing this couldn't happen, I felt helpless.
I remember singing all the verses of the national anthem with the congregation, with the Gutsy Dad right by my side (as he had been every week since we first met). I choked out the words.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.
I mean, did you even know that was in there? That's our national anthem, people, and it's heavy stuff. I was wrecked.
By the end of that Sunday, I knew I wanted to be married to the Gutsy Dad. I knew I would tolerate whatever burdens his chosen career would place on me as his spouse. I wanted for better or for worse. I wanted assurance that he was mine, that even if he left, that even if he didn't come back, he was mine and always would be.
I forced the Gutsy Dad to propose to me under duress. (As it turns out, he had been planning--for quite some time--to propose to me on 9/12/01, the second anniversary of the day we met, but things were crazy on that "day after," and he hadn't found an appropriate time since then.) We met with our priest to discuss details, and she assured us that she would make it work no matter what, even if the Gutsy Dad were suddenly called away.
"I will meet you on the tarmac if I have to," she had said. I loved her for that.
So that is where I was that Tuesday morning, and I suppose a part of me is still there. I won't be so dramatic as to say the events of 9/11 changed me forever. I am still the same me, essentially. But those events certainly changed the trajectory of my life, not to mention my husband's career, and the shape of the lives of the entire Gutsy Family.
Here I am, a day before giving birth, and my thoughts are on the events of 9/11/01, not on the events of tomorrow. My thoughts are on the level of GUTSY that is going to be required of me yet again. After all, there might never have been a need for gutsiness, if there had been no 9/11. But here we are -- a third baby, a third RLBT.* I know this will be my last baby; I pray it is our last RLBT.
I guess it's not that surprising that as the Gutsy Dad's next extended hiatus from our family approaches, I can't help but clear my head, reflecting on this past decade, especially on this day of all days. To do so means I can make a little more room for more wonderful subjects as well as my signature optimism, restored and still intact.
I am ready for tomorrow.
Pensive but grounded,
The Gutsy Mom
The Gutsy Mom
(*Ridiculously Long Business Trip)