That Which Came Before the Deafening Silence


I almost never talk about 9/11. To be honest, I try not to revisit it. I have never written about it. A post by Surrounded by Imbeciles caused me to think about my experience. In the grand scheme of things, it’s probably meaningless, but this is how I remember it.

My daughter’s best friend back then was a little girl named Stephanie.
Stephanie’s family lived up the street.
Her mother and I had become friends.
Our girls were in the same kindergarten class, the same teacher, the same afternoon session.
She and I had decided that we would put her young son in the carraige and walk together the couple of blocks to school until the weather turned inclement.
A little exercise wouldn’t hurt any of us.
We spoke to each other every morning to firm up lunch plans, theirs and ours.

At the time I worked nights, bartending mostly.
Teri was up nights too, usually with the baby.
Sometimes with Stephanie.
Often with both.
Her kids were like a couple of housecats.
Up all night.
Eating and roaming.
Sometimes I would see the lights on when I was coming home from work.
It wasn’t unusual for me to call her at midnight, one AM.
It wasn’t unusual for her to call me in the morning.
Sleep was not something either of us did well.

She called me that morning.
She asked me if the television was on.
It was.
Probably “Little Bear”.
She told me to turn on the news.
She told me that a plane had hit The World Trade Center.

It had happened before.
A small plane, off it’s flight path, I think.
I commented that one would think a pilot could manage to visualize something as large as The World Trade Center.
I wondered aloud if it was a suicide mission.
Neither of us could recall if that had been the case with the other small plane; I still don’t know.
I commented that there were probably less intrusive ways to off yourself.
She remarked that those ways wouldn’t be as newsworthy.
I speculated that jumping off the GW would probably get you some media attention.
She reminds me of this conversation all the time.

I left “Little Bear” on in the bedroom for my daughter.
I made my way to the kitchen.
I turned on that television.
She followed me out.
I needed coffee.
She wanted breakfast.
She demanded waffles.
She wanted me to turn on “Little Bear” in the kitchen.
I wish I had.
We were still on the phone when the second plane hit.

I willed myself to remain calm.
I couldn’t think straight.
I heard planes going over my house.
There were always planes going over my house.
I never thought about where they were headed before.
Did that one go over my house?
What about the first one?

I got off the phone.
I was terrified.
I was alone with a small child.
My husband was working in Jersey City.
I wanted to talk to him.
I couldn’t get through.
Not on a landline.
Not on a cell phone.
All circuits were busy.

I was too stunned to cry.
How many miles was it to The World Trade Center?
Uptown was about eleven, so what was it? Thirteen? Fourteen?
What was next?

I served the crispy waffle.
She didn’t complain.
I let her sit at the kitchen table.
I wasn’t thinking clearly.
The television was tuned to Channel 7.
I wanted someone to tell me what to do.
No one did.

The first tower fell.
I screamed.
I scared my child.
I scared myself.
My fingertips were tingling.
My lips were numb.
I was crying.
I couldn’t breathe.

The phone rang.
I was shaking.
I was hoping it was my husband.
It was Teri again.
She didn’t want to be alone.
Neither did I.
I pulled myself together.
We went to her house.
We fed the kids Oreos for lunch.
Her husband had gotten home.
Mine hadn’t.
And wouldn’t.
For hours.
Many, many hours.

The schools remained open.
In a “business as usual” kind of way.
We took them.
It wasn’t normal.
This attempt at normalcy.
We sat on a bench at the church next door.
The church was open.
We took no solace there.
We walked around the block.
Marking our own perimeter, I guess.
We just couldn’t let them out of our sight.

There were no more planes in our skies that day.
Or in the days that followed.
It was eerily quiet.
Deafeningly silent.
A stunningly beautiful day.
Crisp and autumnul.
A crystal clear cerulean sky.
Cumulus clouds.
And vapor trails.

6 thoughts on “That Which Came Before the Deafening Silence

  1. You always wow me with your writing, and this is no exception. You captured the fear and helplessness we were all feeling. Beautiful.

    Like

  2. conniemcleod says:

    The odd thing is how ordinary the day was for everyone. Thanks for writing your story down.

    Like

  3. surroundedbyimbeciles says:

    Thank you for sharing. It was a rough day for everyone, but I can’t imagine being that close to it. Not hearing from your husband must have been stressful.

    Like

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