The End of the Day

I finally put on one of Melinda’s videotapes around noon, the news fatigue washing over me.  I remembered what one of my high school teachers, Mr. Tymrak, had said about our minds being molded by the events that had played upon the television screens during our childhood.  He’d said my generation’s cynicism was likely due to continued exposure to endless coverage of the Vietnam War; the images of the war and the ensuing protests about it actually altering our malleable brains as infants.  I didn’t want my daughter’s fragile mind to be changed forever due to endless exposure to images of burning buildings and citizens running from huge clouds of smoke.

The schools had asked us to not pick up our children, just as R had predicted, so when I traded the somber sounds of reporters for the classical music drone of Baby Einstein, the house seemed surreal and quiet; a calm island in a world of chaos that I could no longer see, but knew existed.  I brought my laptop into the kitchen and read endless emails from our Rick Springfield mailing list; everyone was worried, wondering about this person or that person, describing what was going on in their various locales.  I discovered that one of my friends who had been vacationing in Florida would now have to drive home, as she had no idea when planes would hit the no longer friendly skies.  My friend Elizabeth informed me that they were evacuating her childrens’ schools, as they lived in a heavily Jewish area, and there was talk about Israel and Islamic extremists possibly being responsible for the day’s events.  It was all too much; I forced myself to close the laptop and sat numbly on the floor with Melinda, handing her toys while she babbled away, unaware of why Mommy was so quiet.

As the morning turned into afternoon, the silence was punctuated by the ringing of the phone:  my sister from Michigan, my father from Florida, my cousin from Delaware.  The conversations ran along the same lines with everyone; queries as to everyone’s whereabouts, relief at everyone being accounted for, disbelief and horror at the events that may or may not still be unfolding.    Everyone wanted to talk about it; sharing the horror somehow made it easier to bear; I listened, quietly, thinking all the while about the baby boy in my belly and what kind of world was he going to be born into in a few months.

Melinda grew tired of her toys and the sunshine through our windows and I finally, blessedly, put her down for her nap; I returned to the endless loop of coverage in time for Zach to arrive home from school.  He was visibly shaken and wanting to know all that the teachers hadn’t wanted to tell them at school. We sat in shock together, me and my twelve year old son, watching as the world we knew disappeared before our eyes in clouds of smoke.

“Did you know what was going on during the day?” I asked, hoping that his teachers had shielded them.

“Oh, yeah,” Z responded.  Three of my teachers just put on the TV and we watched the coverage.”

In what seemed like an instant, but was actually several hours, Melinda woke as R returned home.  When it had appeared that there were no new attacks coming, the lockdown was lifted at work.  He brought home takeout and we all looked at each other around the table, shell shocked, unable to put into words the shared experience that none of us had experienced together.

“We’re lucky,” was all that we could repeat, over and over to each other.  How lucky we were that we were all here, safe and sound, and that all of our family members were accounted for tonight.  Untold thousands were roaming the streets of New York and Washington, worrying for their missing loved ones. But we weren’t.  We were all here, tucked away in Ohio, watching it all from afar.  But it didn’t feel like very far, at all.  It felt far too close.

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