Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11: Eleven Years Later

Many of you already know how anxious I become every year around this time.
Today, enlaced with the anger and sorrow I harbor still, were memories of what I now consider the last sweetly normal and blissfully innocent day we had in this country--September 10th, 2011.

I remember it clearly because September 10th happens to be Charlie's birthday. He was twelve that year and the weather was mild and rainy, giving way to the blue skies and sunshine of the following morning. 

I don't remember much else about the tenth, other than the hot topic in the house was what kind of car Tommy, a brand new driver, would be getting--if his grades and behavior merited such an extravagant addition to the household.

We talked about how Seth -- upon receiving his license back when Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis still liked each other, the word “gay” meant festive and dinosaurs roamed the earth -- was allowed to occasionally drive the family car. 

And I, an urban princess, drove not to the White Castle in Bay Ridge but hopped on a city bus to enjoy the delicious little square burgers with my friends.

In short, back then Tommy's grades and behavior never actually merited a car but that’s another column entirely. At the time, I was excited about a huge old Pontiac that had recently appeared on someone's lawn across from the high school with a FOR SALE sign tucked under its wiper.

I thought it was providence. My son would surely be kept safe by the solid, heavy doors (remember the satisfying ker-thunk when you slammed one?), the amazingly long front end and the immense trunk in back. We would get him this, I thought--a relic from my own youth, and it would protect him. 

After all, air bags are nifty but those old boats from the 70's were made like Sherman tanks, right? These were real cars.
Look at the size of that front end...plus, you could host Thanksgiving in the trunk.
We planned on investigating the situation the following day after school but I already pictured the poor kid behind the wheel and had begun the campaign to convince him how cool it would be to drive such an old “classic.”

But that never happened. 

Instead two airplanes hit the Twin Towers and all previous thoughts and plans were forgotten as we coped with the horror of the day.
I went temporarily insane and decided I'd never allow any family member to go into New York City again. 

I fretted, wept and cursed as I watched what has, by now, become familiar footage of the buildings collapsing, people – debris-covered and dazed -- fleeing the wreckage and listened to the frantic pleas of those left behind as they begged for news of their loved ones. 

We all temporarily forgot about the big old Pontiac that we hoped would be so perfect for Tommy.

About a week later, the subject of a car came up and I drove by the spot where the Pontiac had sat and, of course, it was gone. 

We ended up getting something a bit newer with airbags and the salesman’s assurance they would inflate if, God forbid, a collision put the precious cargo I call Tommy in harms way.

I realize now that Tom was probably safer with those airbags despite the heft of that roomy car but I had believed otherwise, in my ignorance, on that September 10th when everything was still sweetly normal and blissfully innocent.

God bless those who lost their lives that day, their families and the United States of America.


  1. We woke to that news.
    That was the day I became an American... XO

  2. When I read this comment, janet, I had chills. Did you see that I shared it on FB?

  3. I hadn't thought of land yachts for awhile!

    When we were in NYC two summers ago we went to ground zero. It was a sobering experience.

  4. Mama Susan, we immigrated to the United States on August 10, 2001. A month after, on 9/11, my mom was ready to pack her bags and go back. We were all so scared.