I remember exactly what I was doing eight years ago today. I remember the sense of disbelief. The sense of horror.... of loss... of fear. Anguish.
I don't want to talk about all that has happened since. I want to remember those who were lost that day. And, I want to remember the deep sense of gratitude for the simple things...
On this day every year, I open a paper I wrote the week after 9/11/2001...
Everyday Roads to Routine Destinations
From my bed, I hear the automatic coffee pot—a high-pitched whine and whir and chatter of grinding beans. Soon the titillating aroma of morning brew wafts down the hall. It is five minutes before five; the alarm will sound soon. I am warm and safely nestled on my pillow (the one that, when I travel, has to fit in the suitcase whether another outfit does or not), with a 300-thread count, 100% cotton sheet pulled up around my chin. The ceiling fan emits a low, soft hum. Cocoon-like comfort envelops me.
I reach across our king size bed to find my husband. We begin our morning ritual of finding each other in the middle-- spending those last few languid moments between sleep and wakefulness wrapped in each others arms, the reassurance of a hug to start the day. Consciousness cranks the gears of my mind: I consider what may have transpired in the night; immediately, I feel immense gratitude for being able to start my day in this routine fashion.
Last week our country suffered a terrorist attack of unprecedented magnitude. The world is still reeling from the impact of this brutal massacre; ultimate repercussions will not be fully appreciated for, perhaps, generations to come. And, thousands of miles from the maelstrom, we wake in the quiet everyday life of East Texas-- somehow changed, somehow the same.
I throw my legs over the side of the bed; my feet touch down on smooth, cool hardwood. As I move across the floor, boards creaking ever so slightly, I am exquisitely aware of the deep sense of comfort I receive from my surroundings. I have always been a homebody-- always appreciated nesting with familiar and loved symbols of the life I experience. My wedding ring lies inside the circle of a favorite bracelet on the bathroom countertop. Usually, without thought, I slip it back on my finger before brushing my teeth. Today, I feel its significance and take delight in the clean taste of toothpaste. My hand slides across the slick, pale green tile, reaching to turn off the bathroom light. I give thanks for running water and electricity, harnessed in the flip of a switch-- and marvel at these deceptively simple treasures.
I pour our first cup of morning brew, as Evan turns on the TV. We settle into the soft, worn leather of a couch, two decades old. Sipping our coffee, surrounded by family pictures and an eclectic assortment of crosses, we sit in silence and listen to the latest news about our nation and our collective lives. We are, at once, removed-- safe in our familiar comforts, and immersed-- horrified by the carnage on the television screen. The grueling, heartbreaking search for the lost and presumed dead continues through the monumental mountain of debris. The President and his administration toil over a plan to heal and protect our nation and to free the world from terrorism.
Lucky, the cat, and Buddy, the dog, cavort and frolic around the room. Lucky is a giant Target Tabby cat, weighing-in at almost 20 pounds. He is the alpha dog of this twosome. Buddy is a mutt, a rescue dog, who had been abused by his prior owner. His humble beginnings only enforce the power of his sweet presence. We call him the Ambassador of Peace, Harmony and Love. Their antics together usually evoke chortles and belly-laughs from Evan and I. Today, we only smile. I wonder when it will be OK to laugh again.
As my husband gets ready for work, I move outside. My bare feet transport me across the uneven red brick patio, cool and damp with dew; its once smooth surface is disrupted by time and giant roots. Mammoth oaks spread their arms protectively over this sacred space. Beautiful flowers surround me; I inhale the perfume of the early morning air. Sitting on the top step, I reflect on the seemingly endless dawns of prayers prayed from this perch and I am in awe. Awe of the consistent comfort received here, throughout the seasons. Awe of the joys and sorrows, celebrated and healed. Awe that my chapel is untouched by the hateful havoc that has mauled New York City and the Pentagon. I give thanks. I pray: for the families whose lives were directly affected by this disaster; for my family and all families; for the leaders of this country and all nations of the world; for peace to prevail. Lord, how could this have happened?
With wonder, I appreciate the vibrant red and pink flowers and the verdant greenery of the impatients I water. A hummingbird hovers and darts around its feeder like a tiny fighter jet defending its territory. Crows caw to each other from tree to tree. Squirrels scamper, running and racing and barking. In the background, I hear cars traveling everyday roads to routine destinations. Life goes on-- for some of us.
Evan steps out, ready to leave for work. I kiss him goodbye and think of those who, a week ago, kissed their loved ones goodbye for the last time. Our kiss is poignant and sweet. There is mutual understanding as we hold each other, a little tighter and a little longer than we usually do. I watch down the road several moments after he is out of sight. Gravel crunches, as I turn and head back into the house. Bird songs echo melodies of life. Our days have begun.
Now, I find myself sitting here, in front of my computer, gathering my thoughts about the week’s events. I am aware of great joy in my surroundings, my home-- and of deep sorrow for those who have lost lives, loved ones, livelihoods, friends, or family. Also, I sense a loss, greater even than of lives-- a loss of conviction that our country is safe, impenetrable, and insulated. Contemplating the extent that our lives are irrevocably altered and the actions our nation may take, it all seems too deep, too big, too difficult to grasp.
I sit back a moment to disengage myself from the unfathomable. My daughter smiles at me from a picture of us, taken this past summer. My old friends, hardbacks and paperbacks, offer quiet companionship from piles on the floor, shelves around the room and stacks on my desk. To my right, in a pyramid-shaped cabinet, I see mementos collected during my runs: a giant, dried, deep red-colored palm frond; several bones, including a pelvis of some unknown origin; multitudes of colorful feathers, fallen from a variety of fowl; a Flutophone, a half of a pair of very large scissors, a rusty horseshoe and a candle. I bask-- and exhale deeply. Ultimately, I resolve: to enjoy my innate reverence for life, to live peacefully within my own area of influence, to continue to pray daily, and to relish the simple.