Leslie's Omnibus

Try to Remember

Blackfive reminds us of the day we became one people.

Gennie posts her memories of 9/11 and a host of related links. Well, well said, girlfriend.

What do I remember of 9/11?

I remember waking up to a sunny, beautiful Chicago morning. Turning on the Today Show. Making coffee. Feeding the cats. Jumping in the shower. Padding back into the living room, wrapped in a bathrobe with my hair up in a towel, heading to the kitchen to see if the coffee was finished brewing.

Stopping dead in my tracks at the images of an airliner plowing into the side of the first tower of the World Trade Center.

Steadying myself by gripping the arm of the couch.

Sitting down heavily while the news report buzzed in my ears, the words not registering. Tears pouring down my face.

After a few minutes it dawned on me that this was going to affect businesses everywhere, and that I needed to get to the office to do whatever it took to make sure that people there had gotten the news.

I don't remember dressing or doing my hair. I do remember coming out of the bathroom again in time to see the second tower struck.

Dumbfounded, I grabbed my car keys, a cup of coffee and my cell phone and headed out the door.

Heading down Lake Shore Drive with the radio on AM 780. News of the Pentagon being hit came on just as I was rounding the curve near the head of Michigan Avenue.

I grabbed my cell phone and called the office. Patricia, our receptionist, told me that people were aware of the World Trade Center crashes. I told her to make sure someone had turned on the television, as the Pentagon had just been hit. She didn't believe me. No, no. It was just announced.

I arrived in the office in time to get news of the crash in Pennsylvania.

Almost everyone in the office that day was jammed around the television in our training room, transfixed with horror. Arms around one another. Tearful faces all around the room. Silence, except for the drone of the reporters' voices.

I hurried to my boss' office. As managing partner, I knew he had decisions to make and it was my job to help in any way possible. A flurry of phone calls to our Boston and New York offices followed.

The lines were down in New York, but one of the partners there sent us a message via BlackBerry that all were safe and the office was closing immediately.

Everyone in Boston was accounted for but one -- a partner who was thought to be on a flight from Boston to LA that morning. Boston to LA. My. God. I made repeated phone calls to his home. Got the answering machine every time. Repeated phone calls to his cell phone. I'm sorry. The number you have reached is not in service at this time. I know this guy. I really like this guy. I'm sorry. The number you have reached is not in service at this time.

A rumor has arisen that the Sears Tower may also be a target. It is four blocks away.

My boss reports that building management has decided to close down the building for the day. I help to spread the news, and consultants pack up their laptops and leave.

More frantic phone calls. I'm sorry. The number you have reached is not in service at this time.

I have to go. I stop in the restaurant in our lobby. The television is on, and many people are crowded around the bar, drinking coffee and staring silently at the television. It is 11:30 a.m.

A feeling of helplessness and rage steals over me. I am not a hand-wringer. I am a doer. I dig out my cell phone and call Life Source. Blood. Someone, somewhere will need blood. Or platelets. I have donated both in the past, and it has been more than eight weeks since the last time.

Many, many people have felt and acted accordingly. I make an appointment for late in the afternoon.

The restaurant owner overheard my conversation, and asked when I had eaten last. I don't remember.

Though the kitchen was closing, he brought me bread and a bowl of hearty soup. You have to eat if you're going to donate blood. He will not let me pay.

I walk out of the building and look up at a clear, bue sky. And pray.

I get in the car and head across the Loop towards Life Source. Chicago is a ghost town. The radio tells me that Metra has shut down trains into and out of the city. The El and busses are still running. Good, Lord. How will all these people get home?

I get to Life Source, and there is a very long line of donors. Appointments are tossed right out the window. You sign up and you wait. And watch more horrifying images on the lobby television.

I have my cell phone with me. I try again. I'm sorry. The number you have reached is not in service at this time.

It is my turn. The checklist of questions. The finger prick. The bright blood dropping into the blue liquid and turning dark. The rubber tubing tight around my upper arm. The always surprising pinch of the needle. The rubber ball in my right hand. Clench. Unclench. Clench. Unclench. It is finished quickly. The tight wad of gauze pressed into the bend in my elbow. The tight bandage. Juice. Cookies. Sitting quietly to make sure I am not lightheaded, when I really want to be up and pacing. I am approved to leave, get my "I donated" sticker, and leave.

I get in the car and go home, wanting to reassure myself that all is well. Life is normal. Home is fine. Life is not normal. Will it ever be normal again?

I turn on the television, frantic for more news.

I realize that I have not called my mother, so I dig out the phone. She, too, is glued to the television. We cry together. She is only 35 miles away, but it feels like an ocean separates us. We tell each other "I love you," and we hang up.

I can't be alone, so I go down the street to my local hangout. I take my cell phone with me.

It is reassuring to be surrounded by friends and familiar faces. We, too, are glued to the nightmare being repeated over and over again on the televisions above the bar. We hug. We talk quietly. We watch some more.

Over and over through the evening, I try to reach the Boston partner. I'm sorry. The number you have reached is not in service at this time.

I go home. Once more before I go to bed, I try again. I'm sorry. The number you have reached is not in service at this time.

And so I pray.

No comments: