Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Worst Days

Today is one of the Worst Days.  We all know it and we all feel it in our own ways.  For me, today was 4 days before my wedding, and I woke up blissful.  I was headed to work, then off for 2 weeks to go get married, and go on my honeymoon to Aruba.  Everything happened while I was underground, between Ballston and Metro Center.  When I came up, I practically skipped into my office.  I passed an office with a law clerk in it.  He was a good guy and a prolific worker, and that morning he had pulled the TV on a cart into his office and had it on, facing his desk.  I thought to myself that I should get logged in and check out what's going on, and then speak with him about the wisdom of having a front-facing office with the TV in there.  Mental checklists about what I needed to accomplish before I skedaddled out compiled in my self-centered little head. 

Then an email went out.  Then my phone rang.  Then I called my mother, because in 1993 she had friends in the World Trade Center and I was worried for her.  Then I called my sister and left her a voicemail asking her to please work from home because her office was across from the FBI Building.  Then, in an all hands in my office, we were sent home.  I called Lee, who worked at Dulles and had been sent literally running from his office building to head away from there in case something bad happened, and told him I was headed out of the city from my office in carpools the office was arranging, and that my cell service was totally compromised and could he PLEASE call the caterer.

Yes, the caterer. 

He said, that doesn't matter.  I said, our guest count is due by noon.  If we don't try to call, we'll get screwed.  He relented, called, and left a voicemail there.  We didn't hear back until the next day, when they said to tell us what we knew when we could. 

I rode in a car down 9th Street, through the tunnel, past the Pentagon, and up Glebe Road.  I got out of the car at Route 50 and walked to my car in Ballston, because those 4 miles of driving had taken 3 hours.  I had to move. 

I went home, laid on the sofa watching the news and seeing the buildings falls in real time, cried, and Shadow leaped into the crook of my legs on the sofa and laid her sweet head on my knee, looking up at me in concern.  She hadn't seen me cry and didn't know what to do.  Of course, no one really knew what to do.  But it became the Worst Thing I have seen.

I've seen some terrible things.  In 2000, in Sarajevo, I stood in front of a building which had been bombed during the war.  It was a the headquarters of OsloboÄ‘enje, a newspaper, and it had been bombed during business hours, and is now a memorial to the war,  and a gravesite.  Civilians died there.  They wrote and printed the news in that building, and from underneath the rubble in the basement post-bombing, for all three years of the Siege of Sarajevo.  Until September 11, that was the Worst Thing I had seen.

In April, 2004, I saw my son hooked up to an IV and sedated so he could have an MRI.  He fell asleep.  It did not look as though he fell asleep.  It looked like he died.  To this day, it is the Worst Thing I have seen. 

Shadow would have snuggled into my knees at Childrens' Hospital if she'd been there. 

We are all so lucky to have each other this day.  There were so many victims - people who were just going to work, people who just happened to be flying somewhere to see another person they loved, or had to go somewhere for work to support the people they loved.  Then, with a horrible catastrophe, a new group of people had to get to work, and some of them died in their efforts.  On this day, we have a Worst Day memory that is so universally shared, we can each reach out to each other and hold hands and feel sad and safe and angry and confused and furious with the human condition that has pitted person against person for religious beliefs that are amazingly congruous and infuriatingly divisive. 

I don't believe for a moment that my God or my faith is any better than yours. 

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