Everyone today will be remembering what they were doing on this terrible anniversary, so here's my memory.
Sue Ellen, my now-ex, and I were living in a suburb of DC back then, and much of my time was spent suffering from allergies I didn't know I had. (Apparently this is common in the DC area; the combination of air from the industrial North, the more rarefied Southern air, the proximity to the Atlantic and all those damn cherry blossoms frequently take a nasty toll on newcomers.) As a result, I spent a lot of time home sick from work, as I was on this particular sunny September day.
I was so dizzy I was barely able to walk straight, and almost overwhelmingly tired. Once Sue Ellen left for work--she caught a shuttle bus, which meant she left early, by 6:30 or so--I stumbled back to bed and stayed there, occasionally waking, looking at the beautiful sunshine, thinking maybe I should go out and get some fresh air. But I didn't, and I didn't turn on a TV or radio all day.
I was awake but still in bed when I heard the front door opening. Stumbling out into the living room, I greeted Sue Ellen with a generic, "Hi, Dear, how was your day?"
She stared at me. "We spent the day in lockdown, until they finally gave us the go-ahead to travel."
I stood blinking, confused.
"Because of what happened," she continued. "The planes, the planes that smashed into the World Trade Center--The towers, they're all gone. And the plane that hit the Pentagon. And the other plane..." Her voice trailed off.
Swear to God, for a brief second, I thought she was just saying all this, a way to make her day sound a whole lot more interesting. But here eyes made it pretty clear, and lamely, I said, "You're not kidding, are you?"
"We're under attack," she said.
We turned on the TV and watched the footage, over and over and over, as everyone else did that day, each time we saw the planes hit or the towers fall as horrifying as the first, the dust and paper descending on lower Manhattan, the muted, disbelieving reactions of people on the street, the crowds shuffling like zombies across the Brooklyn Bridge, as if they could get away from the terrible new reality that still burned behind them.
We watched and watched, and beyond that, I have no memory of the rest of the day. Presumably we had dinner at some point, and finally went to bed. Our lives seemed insignificant compared with what happened, and living so close to the nation's capitol, there was no small amount of fear, a fear that would get worse with each passing day, as we wondered what new terror might come from such beautiful blue skies. But as that day turned to night, there was something else, a feeling that whatever had happened would somehow make us stronger, that out of the smoking remains of Ground Zero would emerge...something. A feeling, a sense that we had taken the worst, and yet we would endure.
What would happen next, well, that didn't matter. We knew, in the moment, who we were, and what we had to do.