Like many of you, I cannot believe it has been twenty years since the attack of 9/11. In my mind, it seems like yesterday that I sat in astonished horror watching events play out on the television. Like many of you, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the news of the attack broke. I find it hard to fathom that to my child, 9/11 is distant history. Being a little history buff, she has heard my remembrances of that day, she has read books, and she has studied that fateful day in school. Until this year, she has shown mild interest and felt a sense of disconnect to that day and its lasting effects.
However, this year, the twentieth anniversary of the attacks, has created an almost obsession with the day for my bean. I applaud her teachers for creating in her an enthusiasm for the subject and creating an opportunity for history to come to life. Her teachers collaborated and brought in various speakers to talk to the students about 9/11 and the days following the attacks. These speakers prompted my bean to come home and ask a number of deep, thoughtful questions.
She knew from previous conversations where I was and what I was doing the day of the attacks. I was in my classroom teaching my 8th grade academic English class when my neighboring colleague came in and told me to turn on my television. Soon, an announcement was made for all classrooms to turn on their t.v's. I remember sitting in complete silence with my students watching the second tower fall. I remember the hush that had overtaken the whole school. I also remember the disbelief and fear that ran through us all and then the overwhelming sadness that settled upon us like a heavy blanket.
I also remember the panic that ensued. My dad was flying home from his ranch in Texas that day, and no one could get in touch with him. My assistant principal, a dear friend, allowed me to make phone call after phone call trying to discover my dad's whereabouts and his flight number. Finally, we were able to get in touch with my dad and had the reassurance he was safe and would be home after many delays. By lunchtime, the decision had been made to send all students and staff home to be with their families.
I lived alone in a little cottage by the library in Brookville, an hour and a half away from my family. I remember sitting, glued to the television, talking on the phone with my mom. I was crying as I watched in horror as the poor souls made the heart-wrenching choice to jump from the tower's remains rather than face the inferno or the collapse of what remained from the once-powerful symbol of democracy and freedom. This memory continues to haunt me and, to this day, moves me to tears.
Jordan asked me to repeat my memories of that day for her, even though she had heard them dozens of times. Her favorite part of my personal story is my memory of September 12th. Still numb and reeling with the rest of the country, I drove to Clarion to pick up a few odds and ends. On a whim, I pulled into the animal shelter. I had not intended to adopt a pet, and I'm unsure what prompted me to go to the shelter that day. I went into the cat room, and I remember looking up and seeing two huge blue eyes in a squishy little face looking down at me. I was almost sure the cat on the top shelf was a Himalayan. I also knew that being on the top shelf in the shelter was unfortunate and held little hope for being adopted. When I asked the volunteer to please bring her down so I could see her, I was advised to look for another cat. This poor creature had no hair except what was on her face. Her skin was raw, she was thin, and she trembled. She was quite possibly the most pitiful creature I have ever seen.
Going against all advice, I adopted her and called the veterinarian's office as soon as I was in the car. When I told them of my situation, they put me on hold, and when they returned to the line, they told me to bring her over immediately. This once beautiful cat's health was in jeopardy. She was anemic from a flea infestation; she suffered from a skin infection, severe diarrhea, and respiratory infection. She needed fluids, antibiotics, and an antifungal ointment. She would require an overnight stay, and her medical bills were going to be exorbitant. I pulled out my credit card and told the vet tech I would do whatever was needed to get her back to good health. A beautiful little creature like she deserved a second chance and a life filled with love. The vet tech left the exam room, only to return a few minutes later with the vet. The vet told me all charges would be waived, and her care would be free because he ( the vet) needed to see kindness in this crazy world, and my actions did his heart good.
I picked up my new charge the next day and am pleased to report she lived a long life filled with love, comfort, and care. I named her Pearl because she started so rough but eventually became the beautiful creature she was always intended to be. Pearl was indeed a lilac point Himalayan and one of the most beautiful, sweet creatures I ever had the pleasure of knowing. I will never forget that cat or the kindness of the veterinarian's office.
My bean recorded my telling of my tale so she would always have it. Saturday, at the market, she asked some of her favorite people to tell her their stories too. She hopes to create a video diary, never to forget the impact that day had upon our world. My daughter, a wise little soul, understands that this is living history, and she has an unprecedented insight into other's souls and the world around us. I understand I am biased, but this kid amazes me.
The remembrance ceremony at the market moved me to tears. Although I blamed my leaking eyes on the sun and my runny nose on allergies, I could not explain away my quivering chin. Please know we will never forget all of those who suffered, were lost, or whose world changed forever that day.
As always, my dear reader, stay safe, be smart, never forget, and of course, wash your hands.