Number Four — A Fall Morning Memory
This Might Suck Writing Challenge Inspired by Gail Boenning
Twenty Minutes of Flash Writing Every Day
This year’s 9/11 anniversary crawled by unnoticed by Floridians saying good-bye to Hurricane Irma as she shrunk to a tropical storm and left our state. We were too consumed with our own problems and various levels of devastation to remember, in words or deeds, the terrorist attack of 2001. And, honestly, I didn’t give it more than a glancing thought during the past two weeks until arriving this morning at a client’s office.
On 9/11/2001, I drove from my then home in the country to a different client’s office that was, at that time, in the same office complex as this morning’s client. The duration of my daily drive was approximately 25 minutes, during which time I always listened to a radio show called Bob & Sheri — In The Morning. Laughing while driving to work is a pleasant start to the day, and they always made me laugh or, at least, chuckle.
I was running a little late that morning for a reason I don’t recall. As I joined Bob & Sheri’s program in progress, they were describing what sounded like a scene in a new movie. Often, they commented on upcoming movies or TV shows, and this one sounded like a typical disaster-thriller movie. Planes attack the World Trade Center. Chaos ensues as New Yorkers and tourists flee through the streets. Wow, what a movie, if you like that sort of thing. Another one of those this-is-never-going-to-happen films that will be a box office smash.
But, it wasn’t a movie. It was real.
Took me several minutes to realize the reality of what they were saying. In fact, it wasn’t until Bob and Sheri’s voices were replaced by a prominent news anchor’s that I realized a never-going-to-happen disaster movie scenario had happened, now, in real life.
I was pulling into a parking space as the South Tower collapsed. I remember feeling numb, as though my body was unable to move, unable to leave the car, frozen like a tongue to ice. For several minutes I just sat until realizing that the people in my two nearby client offices probably did not know what was happening one thousand miles away.
I forced myself to turn off the car, ending the report of the attack. As I rushed to the first office, I was acutely aware of my physical environment. The day was already very warm, a typical hot September day in Florida, but the air had that early tease of coolness yet to come. The sunlight was golden and soft, unlike the harsh brightness of the summer sun. A light breeze tousled my hair and tickled my neck. The office park was quiet, no one coming or going, no one standing outside smoking a cigarette while talking on a phone, no one anywhere. I could barely hear the traffic on nearby streets. Quiet, so quiet.
As I was opening the office door, I heard a plane high overhead and wondered if the people on the noisy New York streets heard the first plane before it intersected the first tower. Did they hear the unusually close hum of the jet engine or the whine of a plane in flight? Did they see the plane so dangerously low, so inexplicably close?
The office was dark, blinds on windows closed, florescent lights providing illumination that seemed dimmer than usual. The office was a maze of rooms, one leading to another. I stopped at four desks, relaying the information I did not want to convey, giving the few details I knew but not enough to answer their frantic questions. Employees searched for online news of the attack as I left and walked across the parking lot.
I entered the next office, a brighter and airier building with walls painted the colors of sherbet. They already knew about the attack. One of the attorneys had a niece who worked in Manhattan, but not in the World Trade Center, who called several minutes before. Already the employees were gathered around a small television, gasping and crying. I watched the TV screen as the second tower fell. We all went silent. No one moved, no one spoke, and it seemed no one breathed.
Today, although more than two weeks past September 11th, the air had the same feeling. The sunlight was warm but soft and golden. There was a tickle of coolness in the warmth. The office park was unusually quiet. Exiting my car, I was transported back to that day. The 9/11 day that will always be the only 9/11 day.
This morning, I relived that morning, if just for a few moments, I relived the beauty of that morning and the horror of that day.
In just over a week, I will be in Manhattan. Ben and I will make the obligatory visit to the 9/11 memorial. I will again remember that morning in Florida when the sun was golden. He will remember the towers that stood tall and strong. He will think of his friends who worked at a restaurant called Windows of the World in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. None survived.
We will touch the names etched in the bronze around the two Memorial Pools. We will gaze in the dark waters fed by sparkling fountains.