Sunday, September 11, 2011

Storytime Sunday: September 11th

There's no proper story today, just my memories.

Ten years ago today, my mom and stepdad were supposed to fly to New York for my step-cousin's wedding on the weekend. The phone had started ringing very early that morning and when my mom woke me up, I assumed it was to say 'good bye'. Never, in my wildest imaginings would I have thought of what I saw that day.

I laughed when I watched the TV. Not because I was happy about it, not because I found any actual humour in it but because I laugh when I'm nervous and this made me very, very nervous. I watched the second plane hit. I just kept shaking my head; "this can't be real, this can't be real."

Two cousins, bothers, on my dad's side work in Manhattan. When I finally came to terms with the fact that this really was happening, my next thought went to them. Were they at work? Were their buildings affected? It would be almost 48 hours before my dad would get word from his sister. I had never felt time move so slowly.

At work that day, I ended up comforting an American woman who was freaking out. She had come up with her sister who was visiting from Germany. The US border was only allowing American citizens to cross the border. What was she going to do? She couldn't leave her sister whose English was very rudimentary but she had a 15 year old daughter at home in Bellingham. It was the first time she had ever left her daughter home alone. I was torn between wanting to tell her everything would be okay and wanting to scream at her "I have family in New York and I don't know where they are!" Screaming back at someone rarely solves anything, so I told her everything would be okay.

We got her and her sister a hotel room, and we were able to put her in touch with her daughter and her neighbours who said they'd let the daughter stay with them until she got back. When all was said and done, she looked at me with tired eyes.

"I can't imagine what people with family in New York are going through right now."

"We're waiting to hear about our loved ones; hoping for the best, mentally preparing ourselves for the worst."

Her eyes got really big as she realised that I had family in New York. She pulled me into a bear hug and I could feel her body shake as she sobbed a couple of times.

"I'm sure they're going to be okay," she whispered in my ear before she stepped back. She and her sister disappeared into the crowd in the Inner Harbour.

When she came back three days later to thank us for our kindness, I was not at work. I wish I had been there so I could tell her that my cousins were okay.

While much of that day passed in a fog, if I ever passed that woman on the street I'd recognize her in a heartbeat. I can't help but wonder what she's doing today.

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