I had no idea anything was going on. I was thirty-five. I was living in Catonsville (near Baltimore) Maryland. It was a Tuesday. I was in my usual routine. I got up at 7:30 am, went to the gym, exercised and got home. Dillydallied around. Didn’t turn on any TV, because I usually only had enough time to get to work for 10:00. I left for work, my mind on the usual things going on in my life, nothing of major substance.
My general daily attitude was:
Life was as usual all over the world – the U.S. had no major problems – some things some people liked, some things some people didn’t like. Underdeveloped countries were poor and needing assistance. Other countries way far away were fighting each other… it didn’t impact us, so. . .
I started my car, heading out of my subdivision, and made it the one mile to US Hwy 95 that led to my job. (Hwy 95 is slso the route to New York). There was major traffic. In my usual ignorant stubbornness, I didn’t even bother to turn on the radio to find out what.
I called my job and told them I would be running late. No one said anything to me about it. I saw the huge signs across Hwy 95 which carried alerts. In huge letters it read, DETOUR, AVOID NEW YORK .
I remember saying out loud. “That’s stupid, nobody’s going to avoid New York!” (Mind you, I had no idea what had happened. I smirked all the way to work about the signs, which I saw two more of them.
I arrived at work. Parked and happy-go-lucky walked in late with the “it’s not my fault I’m late” attitude. I started seeing clients. No one said anything.
It wasn’t until close to 12:00 noon that someone told me what had happened, in New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania. My eyes (which are already big) widened. I was in total disbelief.
All this time I was indulging in my selfish endeavors and people had been attacked and were fighting for their lives.
I could feel all of my inner, self-serving thoughts, ideas, and emotions dissipate. All the petty molehills I had recently made into mountains no longer mattered in this grand scheme of things.
There was no longer me. There was us. It happened to us. To someof us it happened directly, and forever my heart will weep for them, as it did today as I watched the 10 year reunion coverage. I remember feeling so violated for months after that. I cried. I sang the Star Spangled Banner so many times during that period. I even sang it into my voice mail greeting.
To those whose lives were lost or who were directly affected by the tragic events of that day, please know that others care, and will never forget the bravery you demonstrated. I couldn’t reach my hand out to help you, but the sorrow felt in my heart for you that day changed me forever into a selfless person caring for the well-being of my fellow Americans and my fellow man. God blinked for a second, and those evil people took advantage of that. But God pulled us through.
Thank you for reading.
Dedicated to the Lives that Suffered on September 11, 2001.
There’s nothing my husband could say to get out of this. I listened intently to the sounds of him entering the house. He was moving slowly but randomly. He was obviously thinking of what to say to me. He had been caught red-handed.
I remained hidden in our room. I kept chanting to myself not to forgive him. He betrayed me. He made a fool of me. Those nurses knew what was going on. And I Iooked like a damned fool going up there playing the loving supportive wife. I can never show my face there again.
He lingered downstairs awhile. After about a half an hour, I heard him coming up the stairs. I braced myself . I stepped away from the door. I heard our daughter’s door creek open.
“Joni?” I heard him say. It seemed he had thought we weren’t home. It was then I remembered I had parked down the street. I heard him mumble something to himself. Then he walked over to our bedroom door. He tried the knob. I held my breath.
“Honey?” he called out softly. I didn’t answer. I immediately devalued the ‘honey’.
“Can we- (a swallow, and a pause).” He tried it again. He got himself choked up. An emotion he didn’t have a right to. Not until I was finished with him.. and I hadn’t even started yet. The second time he got out what he was trying to say. “Can we talk about this, honey?”
I guess I was supposed to me moved. Talk? Talking was not going to undo, straighten out, pacify, or make me feel any better.
He tried the door knob and a knock. I then heard him slide his body down to the floor against the door. He started to talk anyway. He said honey two more times with no response from me.
“I am ashamed…” he started out…
Sigh. Yawn. Yeah right, He pulled the oldest phrase out of the book…
Stay tuned for Part V.
I had a very L——–O——–N——–G day at work today. (enough?) I had been at work since 7:00 am. I had not seen any weather forecasts the night before or all day. At 9:00 pm, I finally managed to surrender myself back to my own life and was the final soul to leave the building that evening (post-cleaning staff).
I got in my car. It was dark. It was comfortable. A few streaks of lightening, absent of sound, kept appearing in the sky. (Thank God for at least that, or I wouldn’t have known anything). No rain, no drizzle, no thunder came with it.
I decided to go to Walmart to get some grits I had been desperate for. I wanted some tonight, since there was no time to cook. I usually do not go to the store at night (once darkness hits). But I felt compelled to reward myself for a FULL Day’s Work. I pulled into the parking lot. Parked close to the entry and went in.
Imagine my horror when I saw a cleared space right where the Quaker Instant Grits packets are supposd to be (yet again, another item allowed to be out-of-stock, Walmart!). I grabbed the round box as an alternative, some milk and pecans and headed out to the check-out line. (Okay, I’ll admit it. I grabbed some M&M’s too.)
Anyway, the nice little family in front of me took so long to check out. The cashier had a worthless looking-vase that looks like a kindergartener could have made, and was waltzing around trying to find a price for it. My neutral affect gradually turned to a frown as she then held an inconsiderate conversation with the family as she kept counting their money five times. I watched as the mother of the little family unit, leaned on my stuff which had glided up next to them. I started to walk away and leave my groceries right there on the belt. But I wanted the grits.
By the time they finally walked away, I couldn’t make eye contact with the clerk. I was that upset with the wait. I figured I’d teach her what efficiency was supposed to be and rhythmically opened my purse, scanned my card, pulled my bagged groceries from the turntable one by one. I punched in my PIN, closed my purse, chose ‘no cash back’, then waited the long three seconds while she handed me my receipt. It wasn’t in my nature not to say, thank you. So I did and proceeded to leave the store.
Just as I was a few feet from reaching the exit, security locked it and pointed saying they were directing all customers to the center of the store. A tornado was a few blocks over and headed our way. My eyes widened in disbelief. The tornado alarms were sounding.
For about 20 minutes I had to stay there until the tornado had past.
I reflected on the time since 9:00 pm. I’m sure I would have driven right into the path of that tornado if I had gotten out the Walmart a couple of minutes sooner. Moreso, if I had gone straight home from work instead of Walmart, I would have been right in its path. Was that an act of angels looking out for me?
Subliminal thoughts, giving me a crave to go to Walmart instead of straight home. The stalling of the family in the line. Who knows?
So now, I sit here in the safety of my home. Not really hungry for any grits tonight.
Tonight…. Sheer coincidence, nah.
My sister just tore my shirt. Out of context? I guess my conscious mind is trying sign off, and the subconscious dream state must have been setting in. That means I’m tired…
I was relieved that Joni René was already in bed and sleeping. I still went to her bedside. I stared at her delicate face that lay atop her peach satin pillowcase. She looked content. I tiptoed away as I felt myself becoming distraught again. I closed her door, and made my way to the master bedroom.
I sat on the bed. I jumped back up. I couldn’t sit there. It had been a sanctuary for my husband and me. It was where we had shared a lot of things – thoughts, emotions- we had soothed each other’s pains, silly jokes, back-scratching, foreplays, and the ‘real deals’.
I was so disappointed and angry at him, I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. I wanted to break everything in sight. I wanted to cut – no, pull my hair out. I wanted to take spray paint from the hallway closet and spray all over the walls.
I saw a pair of his pants from the cleaners hanging on the doorknob of the closet door. It was still covered with the clear plastic wrap. I walked over to the closet, which was barely walk-in. I looked in at his half. I felt his testosterone exude right into my soul. I collapsed to the floor into a sitting position with my legs sprawled out.
I let some of my pain out – I sobbed. I couldn’t do it loudly because my baby was in the next room.The beautiful rose silk top I was wearing -for him- got stained with my mascara-laden tears. Betrayal of this kind was debilitating. I had a physical ache in my heart that radiated through my chest. I had a similar ache on the right side of my head.
My sobbing was followed by a blank stare at nothing while my body sat catatonic. Was this me going insane?
I stayed there until I heard the sound of a whooshing engine approaching the house. It shut off. He was home. I tried to rise. I had sat so stiffly, I had to slowly unhinge my joints to stand up. Once I got to my feet I went over to the bedroom door and closed it. I locked it. I didn’t know what I would do next. I was numb now…
Stay tuned for Part IV.
I drove towards home in a daze. I was in a vacuum. Traffic noises seemed to be an echo in the distance. People walking on the sidewalks or crossing the streets were illusions, not innocent fellow human beings worthy of trust. They would do unto others as they would not like to have done unto them.
Home would now have a different meaning for me. It would no longer be a place of reconvening of our bond to each other. We spent most of our time together, except when we were working. I had switched to home-based physical therapy. The separation was vital to our stability. Joni René’s happiness was a tangible representation of our bond and commitment. Our family unit was a platform still vital to her well-being.
Thinking of her sent a crescendoing twinge from deep within my chest. My tongue clamped against my palate to hold me back from bawling where I sat. The blubbering saliva seeped from the corners of my mouth. I clutched the steering wheel tightly.
Oh, Joni René doesn’t deserve this… None of us deserve this. We were so immune. We were doing everything the best way we knew how.
For a moment, I felt sorry for him. It was as though my loving adorable mate had inevitably become weakened. He had fallen victim to this highly contagious affliction of people. My next thought straightened me up from wallowing in my despair. For how long has he been doing this? I scanned my memory for all of the tardy evenings he had had lately. There weren’t many, but there were some for sure.
I had arrived home without realizing it. I grabbed a tissue to wipe my eyes. I stayed in my parked car to regain my composure. I backed out and deliberately parked down the street. The baby sitter and certainly Joni René should not see me like this. I took a series of deep breaths as I walked down the sidewalk to the house.
Stay tuned for part III.
I remember the day he came onto the unit. The handsome neurosurgeon. He was from the West Indes, but he looked like he was from India. He was joining the medical staff. I was just a physical therapist. Some of his patients would need my services.
He was very professional and all about doing his job. He accepted all patients that came to him. He was confident in everything he did. He usually had a couple of residents from general surgery working alongside him. I would briefly see him whenever he was done or between patients in the OR to check on a patient on the floor. Otherwise, I would see him on morning rounds where he usually waited for my report on how certain patients were doing with rehabilitation.
I’ll always remember the day the department wanted a picture of the neurosurgery staff for the wall in the lounge. I have always been a bit camera shy, so held back hoping to not get in the picture. He reached out and beckoned me in next to him. He was on my right, and gently laid his hand behind my left shoulder. He kept it there, even after the picture was done as others started dispersing. He stood there. I felt awkward moving away from him. Although I felt honored that he embraced me in that way. I felt valuable to the team.
He was talking to the camera man, then he finally turned to me. His hand was still on my shoulder.
“These wonderful people are the reason I can do my job well.” he said, referring to me as one of them. He had glistening eyes as he took an intimate look into mine. I stepped back because now that we were facing each other, we were in each other’s personal space, kissing distance. I envisioned myself in an out-of-body mode, reaching forward and kissing him. He was strikingly handsome. His kindness, gentle skill with his hands, and intelligence were all a turn-on for me. But I stepped back away. He immediately dropped his hand.
The following weeks he continued to being focused on his patients. He managed to clear a backlog of surgeries waiting almost a year to be done. The patients’ well-being came before anything else. There was a day his schedule was full of complicated surgeries. We were all there well beyond our usual work hours. I had to help my shift replacement organize the orders for the evening. It so happened later, we were headed to the parking lot at the same time. He had a parking spot close to the hospital. I had one further out. He called out to me. I turned, he came trotting forward, holding his briefcase.
“You aren’t going out there in the dark by yourself,” he said. Then he suggested that I should have called for a security escort. Again, I felt awkward, because my car was far into the parking lot. Here the neurosurgeon was walking me to my car. I really would have rathered him not. I was cautious enough and always kept my eyes far into the distance.
“Do you live far?” he asked.
“No,” I answered. “Just five minutes away.”
“I have a thirty minute drive.” he commented, shaking his head. “I didn’t realize the traffic would be so congested. Since it’s night, I’m sure I’ll get there in fifteen.” he smiled. I couldn’t focus on what he was saying because I wanted to hurry and get to my car, plus… what do I do when I get in?… Do I offer him a ride back to his car? I hated being in these awkward situations.
We finally got there. I went on and offered the ride. There was no harm in that. He declined and bid me a nice evening and headed back to his car. I hesitated starting my car. I certainly didn’t want to pass him walking. I waited a couple of minutes, then backed out. He was almost to his car. Instead of passing him, I rolled down my window, slowed down, and thanked him again. He waved and shook his head, saying no problem.
As luck would have it, that weekend I saw him at the local Barnes and Noble. He was sitting there in the cafe section reading a newspaper and wearing his glasses low on his nose. I tapped on his table and waved. He invited me to sit down. I couldn’t decline after he shifted some books and magazines he had there onto a chair. I put down my books then went to the counter to order my coffee.
It turned out to be a very nice afternoon. We talked about a lot of things, outside of our work. Since he wasn’t born in America, he was intrigued with my knowlege of American History. I was impressed with his thirst for knowlege, and how he knew a little about a lot of things.
Toward the end, he asked me out on a dinner date. I was stunned. A handsome doctor, single, whom a lot of the women staff had been whispering about, asked me out? I wasn’t even in the top twenty of the beautiful women who had been admiring him. How did he come to pick me? Well, he did. and his interest was real.
We went out on several dates after that and realized that we got along well with each other. He was a true gentleman. One thing, he never flaunted his money. He didn’t have a fancy car, or even a fancy home. He lived in a small condominium that he kept neat and clean, with mainstream furniture and electronics.
Each day, we became more and more connected to each other. He couldn’t wait to see me, nor I, him. We kept up with what each other was doing during and after work. We shared so much. We became not just a couple in love, but best friends. We went hiking and sight-seeing together. We came to care for each other so much that we wanted to journey through the rest of our lives together. We had not consummated our relationship and were trying our best to hold off for when it was the right time. We would cuddle on the sofa as we read or watched television. The sheer possibilites of us being more intimate was stimulating to my imagination. It made for an alluring tension.
A year and a half later, he finally proposed. We had a beautful wedding. Everyone, including the hospital staff was there to witness our official union into a married couple. They had witnessed our journey from the beginning. At work, I would feel a tinge in my heart when I would see him. We shared ‘I love you’s’, and kissed when ever we parted and rejoined each other.
Our first year of marriage, I give birth to our beautiful daughter, Joni René . She was the light of our lives. We made her during times of immense love we had for each other. We raised her the same way we lived, modestly.
We didn’t have a large house or large car. We bought basic toys like dolls and kitchen sets for her. My husband was very big into philanthropy and we donated a great deal to certain charities. We spent money modestly, secured our futures, and college for Joni René . We volunteered once a month at the local homeless shelter.
When Joni was eight years old, I had decided to surprise my husband with a birthday dinner. His secretary phoned me later that afternoon to tell me that he had a late case that day that would go into the evening hours. I decided to take a plate and some wine to his office and we could sit at his desk with two forks and have his birthday dinner together. I got everything ready, fixed myself up, grabbed our meal and stored it in a soft thermal case, grabbed the bottle of wine, and his birthday gift, and headed to the hospital.
I got to the floor where his office was. If I had known then what I know now, I would have stopped there and turned around. The nurses looked at me with secrecy in their eyes. I thought their eagerness was to see me surprise him. They didn’t stop me. I think they wanted to see drama unfold. Well, it did to some degree.
I got to his door and opened it, not expecting to see him there. My jaw dropped. My hands and arms lost tone so I dropped everything I was holding onto the floor. The wine bottle shattered. I felt a sharp sting against my ankle. My vision became warped but then back into focus.
There he was leaning against a nurse sitting on his desk. They were kissing. His hands were around her back and under her top.
I ran back down the hall to the elevator. I pushed the down button ferociously. My mind couldn’t think. I just had the visual. My heart wasted no time going into an ache. I thought I was having a heart attack. My legs were trembling as I rode down the elevator. I walked fast and awkwardly down the front entry to the parking lot My heels were high and I sprained my ankle as I ran to my car. I got in quickly. I looked back, and I didn’t see him coming after me.
Stay tuned for Part II…