I had just dropped off my two-and-a-half-year-old at his mother’s-day-out class. Eight months pregnant and relocated to a new city, I was on my way to a different preschool to check availability. The mother’s-day-out my son attended was selected sight unseen from our former home in Houston about three months prior; once we moved to Charlotte, we finally figured out neighborhoods and houses and such. Ultimately, we wanted to live in a certain neighborhood and needed a little school closer to it.
Driving my green Chevy Blazer on those winding roads whose names inexplicably changed at every curve, the radio was on low, because, you know, when you’re trying to figure out where you are (and smart phones weren’t around), you turn down the radio.
Despite my concentration on driving, I did notice when the music stopped and the news was piped in.
An airplane had hit one of the towers.
By the time I made it to what did, in fact, end up being our son’s preschool, the second airplane hit the second tower and strangers – the director of this preschool, an elderly church parishioner, and a pregnant, relocated Texan – were huddled around a TV in a strange silence of horror and disbelief.
Other random memories from that day:
~ I scooped up my son and returned to our corporate apartment. I picked him up about an hour early, and he was one of the few remaining children there, other terrified parents had already taken their kids for the day. He was on the swing and was wearing a khaki pair of shorts and matching T-shirt that had a tractor on it.
~ My husband called from his work to say he could sit in front of the TV there or at our place; either way, there was no work transpiring on that day. He openly wondered what would happen with his airline ticket to travel to Houston the next morning. He was to head “back home” to oversee packers and movers at our Houston house.
~ We had pasta for dinner.
~ I called my sister and cried. I was so sad that I would bring a new, beautiful baby into such a world.
Eventually, husband did sneak in a trip once the airports opened up again but before the baby came. While he was away, I stayed up to watch a celebrity benefit on TV to raise money for 9/11 disaster relief. I must have just given up by that point. I remember my diapered son standing behind a wooden coffee table, coloring with crayons and eating M&Ms. I was horizontal, huge, and on the couch.
Performers sang, commentators announced, money was raised. And then, my son put down his crayon and stared. A guitarist was playing and singing, and my boy was positively mesmerized. He played his set, then left the stage for the next performer, and my son started to cry. “Bring back the man in black” he howled. Clearly, it was past his bedtime.
The next morning, he asked to watch the video of the “man in black.” This is 2001. There is no TiVo or You Tube or Hulu. I had not thought at the time to pop in a blank VCR tape to record the event. So, we went to Target and I purchased one of Bruce Springsteen’s CDs. We listened to it in the car and in the apartment, over and over. The Boss a.k.a. Bruce Springsteen a.k.a. The Man in Black played and played.
A little sister was born a little over a month later. A house was moved into. A preschool was attended. And life moved forward. And the story of that day has been told and retold and told even again.
Our story isn’t the most interesting or the most gripping or the saddest or the most fascinating. But is it our story; I share it with my children because they were so young and not quite born, and they need to hear it. They need to know. So we – none of us – never forget.
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