We all have our stories: where we were, who we were with, what we remember from that fateful day when the largest terrorist attack on home soil took place.
I’m no different.
Husband #1 and I were freshly separated. On that particular day, he was in Florida for work, far away from our current state of residence. It was a plane flight that took him there.
I was at my employer’s work site, sitting in the executives’ break room where a coworker who knew someone who knew someone pulled us in to the news feed. We watched as the first tower collapsed on live television, our eyes were as big as saucers, many were shocked into silence. A few were crying.
Heading back to my workspace, I heard our supervisor’s voice: “Just go back to work. There’s nothing you can do. Today is a day like any other day.”
I knew it wasn’t. I’ve lived through natural disasters (floods and hurricanes) and know that even random acts of a giant storm cloud leave scars on even the strongest survivors. This was different. This was planned. This was an act of war. Our company dealt with people who were in those towers. We would be impacted with first hand stories of people who died, and stories once removed from someone who’s friend died, and close calls from employees who for once would thank God for the traffic jam instead of cursing the snarl of cars and buses.
It was impossible to get a connection to Husband #1’s cell phone but I kept trying and eventually got through to him. We voiced our mutual concerns
“Are you OK?”
“Yes, are you?”
“Yes, I’ll take care of the children, don’t worry.”
“I’ll try to get back as soon as I can. All of the flights out are grounded,” (he was supposed to fly back that morning and was already at the Miami Airport).
“Please stay safe.”
There were other parts of the day that are etched into my memory. Scary things— people in towers trying to escape from flames and immense heat no matter how far the fall, last phone calls made in haste, heroes fighting losing battles in the air and on the ground.
But mostly I remember Husband #1 and I sharing a calm moment in our time of personal turmoil. No matter what, we still wished no harm on each other. My humanity survived the infidelity, the unfairness, and the personal wrongs I suffered. His humanity survived the “evil” beliefs about me and whatever factors led him to leave our home.
This feeling of reaching out has survived that divorce. Not so much for Husband #1 anymore, but for Husband #2. Since Husband #2 has left, sadly, several school killing sprees have taken place. Each time I hear about the tragedy, I reach out to him (either by text or by voicemail) to say, “I hope you’re OK. Please stay safe.”
Life is too short not to care.
I once read a piece by a woman – the moral of the story was to pick your battles – where she was (once again) picking up the crumbs from her husband’s breakfast that were on the kitchen floor. On her hands and knees, she had an epiphany. The crumbs on the tile signified that her husband was still with her at home. He was still there, alive and eating. If the crumbs weren’t there for her to pick up it would mean that something happened to her husband.
Most of us would have super-glued a mop to that husband’s hand and yet she chose to look at those food crumbs in a different light.
I wonder how many spouses of 9-11 fatalities wish they still had crumbs to pick up….