I had never been to New York City until I went to visit my daughter, Morgan, when she was working as an intern at the Today Show in 2012. My visit there was just before Halloween and just before Hurricane Sandy hit. We must have walked miles that long weekend in October. My feet have yet to recover. But every step was worth it. New York City is amazing, overwhelming, a dream place you have seen on TV, in movies, and have read about in books. There are so many people and famous places that it feels surreal.
One afternoon and evening while we were there when the skies were already beginning to darken as the hurricane grew near, we took the subway to view the Statue of Liberty from a park along the water. We continued to the part of town where the Twin Towers once stood and where construction was underway for the One World Trade Center. The streets were filled with rush hour pedestrians. Walking among the tall buildings with all those people bumping elbows around me, listening to horns blaring, and construction vehicles and cranes screeching and banging, the city began to close in around me. I felt a moment of panic, of claustrophobia. We were trying to meet a relative in the crowd to go to dinner. This simple task felt impossible.
I remembered then that my panic in this place was nothing compared to what people felt on that day in 2001. Though I was in expected evening darkness, those people had started in sunshine and been thrown into the panic of ash and fire, debris and destruction. I would find my way out with help, but most on that day would not.
After many cell phone calls to narrow down a meeting place we found Mike and had a lovely dinner. My feet were swollen. My body weary, but I was fine. Back at the hotel a hot shower and a good bed revived me. I would see New York again.
That fated day on September 11, 2001, I was far away from NYC, safe in the sheltering hills of southern Ohio. At that point, New York was a longed-for dream for me, but the drama unfolding on my television screen was a nightmare. I could not help those people. I could not understand the enormity of what had happened or how it would change our world forever.
But I could write. I could create. I could remember how I felt in that moment. And maybe somehow those words could reach others and let them know they were/are not alone.
WHAT I ALWAYS DO
I spent the morning doing what I always do–
a cup of tea as dawn lit the eastern sky
then the bustle of husband and children
off to work and school. I watched
the early news, but life went on as usual.
I turned then to Mozart, my journal and poems.
I wrote about the beauty of the day–
bright sun, no clouds–
I even thought what a perfect day to fly.
At noon, I turned on the TV as I always do
to catch the local news, but today,
there was no local, rather, a country in ruin.
For hours, I shook,
tears and fear mingling
as images of smoke plumed the sky.
I held my husband, each child to me
overlong when they returned.
Now, I try to do what I always do,
but I am raw, heart bruised.
Each meal prepared becomes an offering.
Each sock matched to its mate,
each shirt pulled from the dryer,