An Endless Day

I couldn’t sleep that night.

R and I had a television in our bedroom.  I’d never had a television on at night when I’d been single; I found it too distracting as I lay there waiting for sleep to come.  But R had always used the drone of a TV to help him fall asleep, and so when we’d moved in together, on the TV went.

Eventually I learned to sleep with the TV in the background, and later used it as a sound block between myself and the noise of R’s snoring.

But this night, the night of 9/11/01, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.  Already there were huge lights brought into the pile of debris where the towers had stood less than twenty four hours ago.  Rescue workers were clawing at the wreckage of the buildings, trying desperately to find those who they knew must be buried alive and waiting for help.

I thought of the woman I vaguely knew, a Rick Springfield fan named Marni.  Emails back and forth on our mailing list all day had worried about her.  Many, many people that were involved in our 1000+ person email list were from the New York area. Scores of them had sent emails letting everyone know that they were OK.  They told stories of walking, walking north, walking over bridges.  They talked of the stand still of the usually vibrant city and the horror they’d all experienced being there.

But no contact had yet been made by our friend Marni.  We all knew she’d been at her desk when the tragedy occurred; she had sent an email to our mailing list before 8 am.  She’d worked on the 89th floor of the second tower to be hit.  All of the news anchors speculated at what floor the plane must have hit; it appeared that it must have hit below where she was.

What had she done when the first tower was hit, I wondered. Had she immediately left her desk and started down the stairs? If her office did not face the other tower, she may have heard something but rationalized it as a drill, or something that could be ignored and gone back to work.  No one knew.

If she had stayed in her office, she was likely above the site of impact.  As I watched the workers in the dark climb from here to there in the wreckage, I couldn’t stop thinking of her.  Did they have televisions in their offices?  Was she aware of what was going on?  Had she started down the stairs?  Maybe she had gotten out entirely but was in a hospital somewhere, unable to check in.  Or maybe she was just fine but with a family member who wasn’t.

I’d seen on the news footage of people leaning out of the buildings.  I’d heard that dozens and dozens of people had jumped from the buildings trying to escape the fire.  I tried to shake these images out of my head, but the more I did so, the more I saw them, every time I closed my eyes.  Was the woman I knew one of those people?  One of the people faced with a choice between one method of certain death or another?

I knew I had to calm down.  I could barely eat, and my stomach was in knots.  I had to hold it together; Zachary was certainly looking to both R and I for guidance and strength.  I needed to wake up in the morning with a serene face and be able to tell him that everything in our world would be OK.  I needed to be believeable when I said it.  I needed his faith, his newly forming idealistic faith, to not be forever changed or shattered by this day, by this tragedy.  Melinda would never remember this day, but Zach would, and I needed him to remember that R and I were still the rock solid parents he could count on and draw strength from.

It was this mantra I repeated to myself, over and over, until sleep finally overtook me after 2 in the morning.


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