There are days when everything seems just as it should be, but at the same time, you know nothing is as it seems. Today is one of those days. Same time, same date, different year. And each year, I am overwhelmed with emotion, overcome with tears on its eve, and then again as it passes into a new day.
And it does, miraculously, always pass into a new day.
Eight years ago today, I had just gotten out of the shower, when my husband said in a calm voice "Honey, come in here." His voice never scares me, but in those seconds it did, because I didn't recognize it. Moving into the bedroom I saw him watching the tv. On the tv was an image of the Twin Towers. There was smoke. Not a second later, we watched the second plane hit. My heart stopped. I counted the seconds.
For the next several minutes the world stopped and time stood still.
Then I went to work. Crisis communications being part of my job.
I made phone calls. Some of them went through. Most hit a busy signal. I waited to hear from family members, friends, co-workers, students, colleagues, media contacts. I arranged for more televisions to come in. Whether with friends or strangers, that day we all watched and cried and hugged and wondered. Together.
More than anything, I waited and waited and waited to hear those busy signals turn to voices saying they were ok.
In the days that followed, as phone service was restored, most were.
But not all.
Too many lives lost in an instant. I cannot write about what it is like to lose a parent, spouse, or child in 9/11. I cannot fathom that deep a loss and am still constantly in awe of the strength of those who endured such a loss that day. I was not there to experience the chaos or witness what New Yorkers went through first-hand, nor able to assist as bravely and immediately as our firefighters, paramedics, police and other disaster relief workers.
I was not there, and yet, I was. We all were. In many ways, we still are.
On the anniversary of 9/11, it is difficult for me to conduct life as normal. Every other day of the year, fine. But this day, every year, I am struck with so much emotion that I am almost frozen. I remember.
I feel like I am still waiting for my phone to ring. I am still waiting to hear those voices who never had a chance to call back.