(photo credit: A Hole Heart by Alan Levine on flickr.com. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode.)
I got a call from my husband as I was packing up my things to go to my first piano lesson in twenty-five years. I was both nervous and excited to finally return to playing, although I’d really only played for a couple of years when I was in elementary school so it was more like beginning instead of returning.
I’d dropped my daughters off about a half hour earlier. My oldest daughter was new to Kindergarten. My younger daughter new to preschool. I was new to having a couple of hours of free time in the mornings. I was a little bit anxious about leaving both my kids with people I only vaguely knew. To keep my mind off of the fact that my kids weren’t with me, I scheduled a weekly piano lesson.
When I picked up the phone and said hello, my husband said, “Turn on the TV.”
It was about 8:50 in the morning on September 11, 2001.
Along with the rest of the world, I was stunned by what I saw on the TV. The smoke, the collapsing building, the world gone haywire. I was doubly stunned ten minutes later, still on the phone with my husband, when news came of another plane crashing into the second tower.
“Something is very wrong,” my husband said. “Very, very wrong.”
All I could think about were my kids. I could pick them up. I should pick them up. Should I get them and never let them leave my sight again?
But after a few more minutes, I hung up and went to my piano lesson, where I did not touch the piano. After apologizing for being late, I asked the teacher if she’d heard about the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. She hadn’t. I told her what happened. She seemed bored by what I said.
“Turn on the TV,” I told her.
“I’ll hear about it later.”
“No. Really. You need to see what’s happening.”
“No,” she said.
That’s when I lost it. I could feel my body getting hot and the tears beginning to rise to the surface.
“I can’t do this,” I said. “I can’t do this now. I’m going home to watch the TV, to find out what’s going on.”
“Don’t you think maybe you’re overreacting?” the piano teacher said. It wasn’t quite as offensive as it sounds. I knew her because she taught my oldest child piano and while she was a bit insulting, she did know me and I do, on occasion, overdramatize life situations. But, not that day.
I tried to get her to understand that this wasn’t some random accident. This was terrorism. They were calling it terrorism. I needed to find out more. I needed to go home and put on the TV.
“If you feel like you have to go, that’s okay, but I’m still going to have to charge you for the lesson.”
I wrote out a check and left her studio, never to return. I found my daughter a new piano teacher and I never took another lesson from her or anyone.
When I think back to that day, I think of how sheltered I was from what happened. Nobody I knew well was living in New York at the time. I wasn’t waiting for a call from a friend or family member saying that they were safe. I wasn’t wondering if those people jumping out the windows were people I knew.
I was frightened and felt out of control but I was safe. My family and friends were safe.
Yet, I still felt as if somebody drilled a hole into my heart. I felt as if everything was lost. What kind of world did we live in where people create such horror, deliberately?
Honestly, I feel that every year on this day. There is this hole in me that cannot be filled.
So, instead of celebrating the 200th day of my blog today, I’m putting that off until tomorrow. Today, I am thinking about all of those people whose lives were directly impacted by such a senseless act of terror. I’m mourning all those who lost their lives. I’m sending out my love to those whose families were torn apart by this horrific moment in our lives.
Am I’m giving thanks for the safety of my family and friends. And realizing just how lucky I am.
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