It was time to get our daughter to school. She was about 8 years old and her dad was going to drive her to the school that morning. Her twin brothers where at middle school already. Sitting on the couch I was brushing her hair and putting in a ribbon. Her dad was patiently waiting. The television was on as it normally was to the morning news show in New York. It was not long before the plane hit the first tower. Almost instantly it was being viewed across the nation and in this little room, in this little town. She was a bit worried, but we reassured her. I remained calm and instructed my husband to take our child to school. Later I would find out that as they drove, listening to the news, they learned the second tower was hit.
An elderly lady friend had called me, while my little girl was still home, she was quite shocked. As the woman whose husband was a United pilot trembled on the phone, my daughter and husband left. The puppy was confused. There was not usually this much activity in the morning at this house. The second plane hit as we were speaking and trying to think it was an accident, to believe it was all an accident. With the second plane, we knew it was not. We continued to speak for a short time and then told each other we would speak later. My husband called and told me our child was at school, safely deposited and spoke to me comfortingly.
I began to pace around the room, it was a kind of a great room with the kitchen, dining room, sitting room and alcove all connected. There was a lot to do in the morning, pick up the breakfast dishes, clean up the morning mess, start the dishwasher. I circled around the room, again and again, watching the news and each horrific scene after another.
The haunting voice of the young man who was answering the phone at Cantor Fitzgerald was the most strange and surreal part of the pacing. His voice, answering the call of the morning talk show hostess, trying to get the first impression of the disaster. She called him a couple of different times I think. Or did he call them...No, I think she called him. He said, "Cantor Fitzgerald". They did not know what was happening, that he would not live, that the towers would fall, that soon the smoke and flames would be unbearable, that many would jump to their deaths.
"Cantor Fitzgerald". Then it was no more. I still hear his voice reaching out, trying to relay just what they were experiencing. His words, "Cantor Fitzgerald" blazoned on my mind, heard over and over in my heart. Deep within me, through this voice I experienced the pain of ending, the departure of a life, the mindless waste, the etiquette of the dying. "Cantor Fitzgerald". To tell you true, I had no idea what "Cantor Fitzgerald" really was, was that his name? Cantor, that reminded me of the singer in a Jewish synagogue, Fitzgerald, an Irishman? My mind was racing and jumping. Finally, she stopped calling him, no, the phone calls no longer went through. All this in a short space of time. We were not left wondering for very long. Not long at all. Much later I learned about the significance of Cantor Fitzgerald, this firm and how many people they lost that day.
Our family had been to Europe that June. In August we went to Galena to ride the Alpine slide as we had done in Austria, once more before school started. On the way home in the town of Elizabeth, we stopped and bought a puppy that was for sale. We had long talked of buying a dog, and there it was, a breeder, selling their last puppy. My husband and I looked at each other, spoke and turned around after reading the sign. Just that fast. The woman owned an old church made into a beautiful home and there was the mom dog, and this lovely puppy. She was weaned and ready to go. Can you imagine the delight on the children's faces? It was amazing. We drove home with that amazing animal. She turned out to be a life saver for our children and our family. She was and is something to love unabashedly, to find comfort with. She is very beloved and even skype's her special charges today, to deliver comfort.
On the plane back to the states in June, Swiss Air had not honored the seating arrangements that the travel agent had set up. So the boys were with me, and dad and baby were elsewhere on the plane. In front of the myself and the boys, a middle eastern, Arabic woman and her children sat. The daughters and mother were covered. Their son not. The children were busy in their seats, but when the movie came on, their mother deemed it not appropriate and they must hide their faces more, and crouch down in their seats. So they did, but not first without flashing smiles at us and exchanging gum with the boys.
It struck me how different they were from myself and my children, how culturally different. I felt a bit sad that the children must crouch in their seats, but thought that if I had deemed the film offensive, I might have required the same of my children or more likely just kept them distracted with a game or something else.
When I walk backwards in time, all of these moments, and everything I learned later come back to me. Some weeks after that tragic day, a large semi truck was stopped in an odd place. Near a small railroad overpass, near a two way stop by an old farm and a new sod farm, it was pulled over on barely a two lane road. I was driving by and just as I was turning, A man dressed in some native Arabic garb jumped from the cab. It was shocking because of how he looked, how he was dressed and where he was. The overpass was painted by school children with some historical stories, it was near the new high school and several open fields with a few homes. This is a place where old trees that once marked the lanes, and farmers fields were knarled with age, and turned leaves which were dropping.
I admit, I utterly panicked. I called my husband from the car. Should I do something, I wanted to know. My husband, thankfully, was very calm. He asked me what the driver was doing. Nothing, he jumped out of the cab of his semi, I had answered. I said, why was he dressed like that, what did people expect to think out here in a rural area, what was he thinking, the fear in my voice was evident. My husband said, those garments are very comfortable, a lot of guys wear them to work a job like that. Don't worry, it is nothing to worry about. Calm down. Only because I love and trust my husband and I believed him did I dismiss it all.
This is what fear does. It eats at you, colors your thinking.
I did not want a war. I did not think it was valid. I fought it from the very beginning, the war, the making of a war. I lit the candles in my window to show that I did not support it when asked. I was alone here, on this lane. I stood at the corner in town, waving an American flag and shouting my protest. I did. I know I shocked a great many people, but a woman I had done philanthropy with, sat on a clinic board with was leading it and my presence lent something to that.
I don't like liars. I don't like war. There had been enough death and I did not understand how we were going to fix any of this with a war. These terrorists did not represent a nation, they represented a movement. How do you fight a movement? When I said that in the newspaper, I challenged people to give me the answer. I do not really think that what we did then and lasts now, does in any way honor that young man who said " Cantor Fitzgerald."
I, like many, have read and learned much about 9/11 in its aftermath. I, like you, have continued to live. I have not forgotten, but I am not satisfied with my healing. I am angry, but I see no conclusion with war. .
And I leave you with that thought.
Copyright 2010 by SheilaTGTG55