Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11/2001

What I remember:

It was the second week of classes, my first semester of graduate school. My probability theory class, which met from 9-11 am, was on break. I was 7 1/2 months pregnant with WonderGirl, so I'd made my typical break-time trip to the bathroom. As we reconvened, an epidemiology student named Clark returned, wide-eyed, from the coffee stand, which had a TV. His information was muddled, something about planes, the WTC, the White House. The Washington mall was on fire. Planes were coming down all over. No one knew what was happening.

The rest of class sat there, unable to digest what he was talking about. My instructor waited a moment, then started teaching again. I wanted to get up and leave, but who leaves in the middle of a required class two weeks into the semester? (If you don't know how to react, I guess you keep reading My Pet Goat.) I wondered if my instructor pushed on because she was Chinese and didn't get the significance. I wondered if I did get the significance. I wondered if this was one of those times where everything changes, and if so, how much.

After class ended, I left school. I needed to see DT, who was working in the nursery of a hospital a few miles away that morning. When I got to the front desk, asking for the nursery, hugely pregnant, the receptionist tried to point me to labor and delivery instead. I couldn't explain myself, but finally found DT in the NICU, hugged him, then went home to watch the news and try to process it all. I listened to NPR on the way, as they reported the towers had fallen. It took several days for me to realize their fall was a surprise to most people -- in my experience of the day, it all happened simultaneously. I didn't know about the sick period between, where no one knew what was going to happen. I didn't know that a plane could enter a building and leave the building upright. I just didn't know.

I remember the next several hours, watching TV, with everyone in the country seemingly assuming that their location was the next obvious target. My school is near a large federal institution, so it was evacuated as a precaution. How many small towns are near nuclear sites, how many large cities have high-profile buildings, how many medium cities are symbolic targets of another kind? Everyone thought they were next.

Like so many Americans, I spent time on the phone, connecting with my family. We all needed to hear each others' voices, even though none of us, in fact, were next. I remember my brother's anger, remember thinking that I hadn't made it to anger yet, I was just afraid.

My most enduring memory of the day was a strange relief that WonderGirl hadn't been born yet. Whatever else was scary and uncontrollable, I knew she was okay. I remember having my first true understanding that there were situations in which I wasn't going to be able to protect her. That day, though, she was still cozy and unaware, kicking my internal organs, reassuring me that whatever else I couldn't do, I could nurture her a little while longer. My body was a buffer between her and whatever madness was going on. It was the one thing I could do while I waited to see what it all meant.

2 comments:

Unknown Legend said...

Ruth, I didn't know that you had your own blog until just now. Cool!

I bookmarked it so will now be following what you have to say. :)

Ruth said...

Thanks for stopping by, U_L!