Friday, September 11, 2009

Perceptions of Tragedy

Strangely enough, I was recovering from the first car accident I had. (For those of you wondering, I was a passenger that time.) All three kids had been sent to school. It was Diana's first year in Intermediate school, Calypso was in third grade, Isaac had just begun morning kindergarten. After they were gone I settled into the claw foot tub so I could soak my neck. In order to do so I laid on the bottom of the tub with my legs dangling out the end so the water could cover my neck. This meant my ears were underwater too so I couldn't hear the phone ringing. Half an hour later I emerged and heard it ringing. As I dried off, I figured whoever it was would call back if it were important enough. By the time I was done it was ringing again. I assumed it was Diana worried about her forgotten lunch. I intended to take it to school as soon as I got dressed so I still didn't answer the phone.

Just as I finished dressing the phone rang again. I finally picked it up. Mr. Lime asked me if I had the TV or radio on. I said no. He told me I needed to turn one on then he hung up to return to his own class of students. I went downstairs and turned on the TV to see the horrific events unfolding before me. Moments later I saw the first tower fall, watched the planes going into the sides of each tower, saw the second tower crumble. I gasped wondering about the friends I knew who worked in the towers and other buildings nearby. It would be the next day before we knew those friends had escaped to safety. We live in Pennsylvania but close enough to the city to be a commuter community. I was frozen in place when I heard reports of the unaccounted for plane which was thought to be somewhere over Pennsylvania. Many people don't realize it but this area of our state actually has a couple of what would be considered strategic targets. It was unnerving. I knew NYC transplants to the area would be pulling their kids out of school in huge numbers.

I got in the car with Diana's lunch and agonized all the way there as to whether to have her remain in school or to bring her and and the other two home immediately. I stood in the office rather dazed as I watched city parents rush the desk and demand their children. When I made it to the counter the secretary asked me if I was picking up my child. I said I wasn't sure but that she forgot her lunch. I prayed silently trying to decide. The secretary said they had not told the children anything and had put the school on a media blackout. I took a deep breath and opted for as much normalcy as possible, leaving the lunch with the secretary. I cried all the way home.

Isaac was in morning kindergarten and had to be picked up shortly. Until then I was glued to news reports. After bringing him home and giving him lunch, I sent him to play with Legos knowing that would distract him a long time so I could go back to the news. I kept the volume very low and pulled one of the doors of the cabinet out to block his view if he should wander back in the room. Sometime later my concentration was shattered by his panicked shrieks. Given the mood of the day it rattled my nerves more than a little.

I turned around to find Isaac wailing. I mustered up every shred of calm I had to ask him what had happened. He was unglued. Finally he calmed down enough to tell me a bead was stuck in his nose. I breathed a bit easier to know it was something I could solve, or so I thought. Unfortunately, no amount of blowing his nose made the bead budge. I couldn't reach it with tweezers either. I calmly told him I thought we'd better go to the doctor. He began to cry again before wailing, "Will the doctor have to cut off my nose?!" I wrapped him close in a hug and assured him no such thing would occur. We dashed to the doctor's office, which was busy on a normal day but today seemed like a madhouse. We were taken to an exam room where we waited and waited. Isaac settled in and then sneezed a somewhat "juicy" sneeze. Dangling just on the edge of his nostril was the bead. I fished it out with a tissue, found a nurse to show the bead, and we hightailed it out of there before we could be charged.

We went home and read stories and played together until it was time to get his sisters. On September 11, 2001 I envied my 5 year old son whose greatest perceived tragedy was a bead up the nose. I also feared greatly for him wondering in what kind of world he'd be growing up.


21 comments:

G-Man said...

You are right Trini...
It's all a matter of perception!
have a relaxing day....G

lecram said...

It was a sad day indeed.

snowelf said...

Oh my...talk about an unnerving day all around. I'm glad Issac recovered with a sneeze.

--snow

EmBee said...

Praise for all the mothers who kept their cool that day. I knew some who couldn't hold their shit together and in so doing, completely freaked their kids out.

Also, hard to believe it's been 8 years already.

Desmond Jones said...

Our kids can really give us some perspective, can't they?

And I share your concerns for the world our kids will be living in. Even so, we all of us can only live in the world we're given to live in; a lot of what we've seen, our parents and grandparents couldn't have imagined (and a fair bit of it, they wouldn't have wished for us, either). As Thomas More famously said, "The times are never so bad that a good man can't live in them."

You knew people who worked in the WTC? That had to be utterly freaky. . . Molly and I once vacationed with friends of ours at their family's cabin up in the hills of Somerset Co., PA, about 5-10 miles from where Flight 93 went down. . .

Cocotte said...

A boy at our HS lost his father that day in the WTC. It still disturbs me that the school had all the TV's on in the classrooms and that poor kid had to sit there, not knowing if his father made it out (he didn't).

S said...

I remember my sis in law woke me up with a phone call, and she was hysterical. "THEY BOMBED THE TWIN TOWERSSSS!!!!!"
I was not quite awake and I had no idea what that heck she was talking about.

We have these twin towers in SF that are for radio etc....I thought she meant those things. And I didnt know who "THEY" were either...
So I turned on the TV and there was the second plane going into the building...
I just didnt know how to handle this situation of my hysterical sis in law. What she really needed was a good slap upside the head to stop the wailing, and then a good hug. That's my method anyway.

Im glad LR didnt get a bead up her nose that day.
You know, when you think about it, it was probably a good distraction for you that Isaac got the bead up his nose....

Suldog said...

Perception does tend to mitigate tragedy (or increase it, as our individual paranoia allows.) What was it that Jesus said about having the faith of a child? :-)

By the way, as poignant as this piece is, it was all I could do to keep on reading in the proper frame of mind after I got to the line about you toweling off. Just saying. :-)

~Dragonfly~* said...

Lime, Wouldn't it be wonderful if all the world's problems could be solved with a sneeze? I was teaching at the time in an elementary school. We were told what was happening but everything was blacked out. Like you, I live close enough that this is a bedroom community. Parents were pulling students left and right as we didn't know where that forth plane was headed. As teachers, we were not allowed to leave and I had no way to contact my children. More than anything I wanted to go get my boys from their schools and be together. Maybe it was selfish of me, but if that forth plane was going to come down on us, I wanted to be with my own children and not someone else's.

One of my best friend's husband was running late.. he got stuck in traffic at the tunnels. Unable to get through he watched as the plane hit his building. Another friend, lost 17 of their friends. They too happened to be running late and spent time with their kids that morning instead of going in to work early as usual.

But now, how many have died and will continue to die because of this? When will it be enough.

You must live right around the corner somewhere!!!! :)

Mona said...

can't forget those horrific visions on the TV, to this day. It was really sad. The repercussions are there for all to see...wars, recession & what not!

San said...

Michele, I believe the terror your little boy felt was just the way we all felt. Would our nose be cut off? Would we ever be able to breathe deeply and slowly ever again?

Beautiful post that brings back my own reactions that day.

Craver Vii said...

After eight years, I'm still trying to figure out how to deal with this. I sat here, not knowing what to say, because my first thoughts just sounded so stupid.

Then Suldog makes that crack about the towel and I find myself laughing hysterically. Thanks Sully.

Moannie said...

Horrible day with visions that linger in the mind like glue residue.

God bless us every one.

~Tim said...

Strangely enough... this says a lot.

Thanks.

Jocelyn said...

Oh, look what you did. You actually put perspective on that unimaginable day.

Wow.

Lolly said...

Enjoyed your post.

Cosima said...

Little man saw the burning towers on tv yesterday and was transfixed. He asked me what happened. My brain went into overdrive of what I should tell my seven year old and what I should not. It's always a tough call. I don't want to lie to him, but I also don't want to make him afraid. I think I managed ok.

I have also tried to explain to him that Berlin (which we visit at least once a year)was a divided city not so long ago. I don't think he really believes me that something like that could have ever happened.

Cheesy said...

Thank god for little distractions~ and innocent wee ones...

Malicious Intent said...

I have yet to actually blog about my 9/11 experience...and I too live close enough by that folks commute to NYC to work, and folks here know folks who work there. It was torture watching the towers go down. Everyone knew someone who either died or knew someone who died. So horrific.

Perhaps, sometime I will. I just didn't want to do it the day off...I sorta almost was lost on the actual date...I don't think it was accidental either.

We have all been scared by this.

Spanish Princess said...

If only life's tragedies were confined to beads stuck in the nose. It was such a terrible day but the way America came together to stand strong just as they did after the attack on Pearl Harbor was definately a top inspirational moment in our lifetime.

cathy said...

All I remember about that day is standing in front of the Tv crying.