11 September 2013

It's that day again. Twelve years have passed.

It's almost noon here in Scotland so in NYC and some parts of the central US people are waking up to start their day. I hope with all of my heart it's the most boring uneventful day of all their lives. 

In some ways it's almost a distant memory but in most ways it's as though it happened this morning. Some years the anniversary passes 'easier' than others; for some reason today I know is going to be one of those harder days. I woke up this morning and my first thought was 'It's 9/11'.

I clearly remember coming down the stairs to see the South Tower crumble and dropping to my knees because I knew my former hospice parishioner who'd become a much loved member of my family was there and I knew I'd just seen him and countless others die. I knew there were people from my ex's business in those towers, too, so when the North Tower came down I knew I'd just watched more people I knew die.

My son had already gone to work. I left the house in a daze and drove down to the bookstore he worked in at that time - he threw his arms around me and sobbed.

I filled the petrol tank. I'd expected to see long queues but there were only three or four of us in the Citgo; as we waited in turn to pay for the petrol an older woman said to me that she was surprised to see so few people getting gas because she remembered Pearl Harbor and how the first thing everyone did was rush the filling stations. This was two hours after the North Tower fell, I think most of Dothan at that time was still glued to their telly in total shock.

That shock lasted long enough for me to get to a couple of groceries and stock up on bottled water, food, and medical supplies - who knew what was going to happen next?! I remember one clerk asking me if there was still water on the shelf because she was going off shift and hadn't stocked her hurricane pantry yet. Clearly she 'got' that 'things' might become extremely bad extremely quickly.

My son got home about six hours after the North Tower fell and by then the immediate shock had worn off, he said the filling stations and grocery car parks were stacked with people circling the block. By 9pm that night a lot of the grocery shelves were bare.

And all that day the sun shone in a clear blue sky devoid of aircraft; the breeze carried a hint that it was Autumn and winter would be coming. It seemed a mockery, that picture postcard crisp American fall morning, it really did.

I can still hear Joey's voice in the voice mail he left (because I was in the shower and didn't hear the mobile phone buzzing; by the time I found it, of course, Joey was dead) as he and his attorney tried to make it down the stairs of that South Tower; oh God help me.

"Listen, Sunnie, I'm in the South Tower stairwell with my lawyer, we're trying to get out of the building. This is bad, kid, really bad. I don't know what exactly happened, I think terrorist planes hit both of the Twin Towers and I don't really think we're going to make it out of here so I need you to make sure those scholarships go through." He was still talking when the voice mail limit cut him off.

I kept that voice mail as long as I could but accidentally deleted later changing handsets.

There were other voices - the most haunting to me was the man identifying himself as Stephen and repeating "Please, can you call my wife? Our number is ??X-X?X-XX?? and I need her to know I won't be home to read to the boys tonight. Please, can you call my wife? My name is Stephen and I was on the 102nd floor. Our number is...Please, can you call my wife?"

If I could have heard the whole number I think I might have called his wife just so 'the boys' could hear his last thoughts were of them. To this day I still hear his voice over Joey's and I don't think I will EVER, EVER get those words and his voice out of my head.

"Please, can you call my wife?"

This morning I took a walk through town. For a good long part of the walk all I could think about was that man's pleading, and how old were his boys now, 12 years after his death? And I keep hearing his voice.

"Please, can you call my wife?"

Rest in peace, Joey, John, and all those others who were so brutally murdered that awful, terrible, horrific morning when everything changed forever and ever and ever. 

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