11 September 2011

Not just a blue sky.

This was one of those summer/fall hybrid weekends that would have anyone begging to last well into the chilly depths of October or November here in New England.   The air is fresh, clean, and vibrant.  The sky is an indescribable blue color.  I've never used to be able to liken or compare the blue sky to anything else. It was always just, well, blue.  Until 10 years ago.  Now I call it 9/11 blue.

Yesterday, G and I ventured to Popham Beach for the afternoon.  I realized somewhere along the half an hour or so drive that we really hadn't taken him there yet this summer.  A travesty since in summers past, we'd make it a point to go every single nice weekend in summer and fall.  I thought it was going to be much cooler at the coast, so I didn't bother to put him in his bathing suit and kept in long sleeves and shorts.  Mistake! Oh well.

Anyway, Popham Beach is my second favorite beach in Maine or really anywhere. Second only to Ogunquit Beach which, with its scenic views of the rocky coast, and village town, and velvet-soft sand,  really rivals no other. 

The moment I took his shoes off, G was off to the races.  While he's not yet running per se, he sure can walk fast.  Those chubby feet pattering their way to the water's edge.  Given the rain we've had this week from various hurricanes, the waves were rushing, the rip tide strong.  Did this deter or fear him? Not a chance. He barreled forward, not letting the icy frothy sting slow him down.

He cracked up as I held him tight agaist the rip tide that, while it made me slightly nauseous, made him only want more.  The beach itself wasn't too crowded, so there was plenty of great space for him to run around. 
As we played, I couldn't help but take notice of the sky.  That deep rich blue that spans across the horizon as far as one can see. And it got me remembering.  Hard to believe that 10 years ago today the landscape of our country changed so dramatically. 

Ten years ago, I was working on 15th and M Streets in downtown DC.  Right across the street from the Washington Post. In those days, I had an adorable city apartment that was only a 15 minute walk to work. I loved that walk.  I'd pass these swanky rowhouses, imagining the lives of the people who resided in them.  I'd pass ornate and ancient churches, that sat pristine and regal, yet inviting for anyone to explore.

This was a Tuesday morning.  The sky sparkled.  It was bluer than any I'd remembered seeing before.  It was going to be a great day.  I remember being in the office for 8am and around the time of the first plane striking, my boss and I were in his office finalizing an agenda for a meeting later that day.  Someone had gotten a phone call, and the conference room tv was turned on.   What was happening?  If I remember nothing else, I will always remember that my boss said to me, come on, we have to finish this agenda.  To be fair, I don't think we could comprehend to the extent of what was happening.  And so we kept working.  Until the second plane hit.  And then we stopped.

The rest of the morning is a blur.  Looking out from our 7th (I think?) floor window, we could see people in the streets. Something was happening.  Something big.  Something unforgettable. And for me, at the tender age of 24, something I'd never witnessed in my lifetime.

I remember emailing my mom, telling her we had been instructed to go home.  By now a third plane had hit the Pentagon.  This was too close to home.  How grateful I was to be able to walk home, as soon enough Metro shut down all its lines. I'd call her when I got home.

Walking home to my apartment on 11th and S, the atmosphere was nothing short of surreal. It seemed like everyone had taken to the streets.  Buildings emptied out, and people were frantic in all directions.  I tried repeatedly to call mom on my cell phone.  Circuits were jammed.  There was the distinguishable acrid scent of smoke in the air. After all, the Pentagon wasn't that far away.  The sky was still blue. 

Arriving home, immediately I turned on the tv, and probably like everyone else, stayed glued to the coverage for what seemed like the next 24 hours straight.  It was the first time in my 6 years or so living in the nation's capital that I felt afraid.  At some point I was finally able to reach my parents to let them know I was home and safe.

The weeks following are blurry. It was a brilliant fall. The smokey scent lingered in the air for days.  I'd come to think of DC as my home, with the Mall being my backyard to play in.  It now seemed tainted.  Weekend trips to the museum were off limits. The Mall had become a ghost town.  One thing I do remember clearly at some point after that Tuesday was how even as some semblance of normal was beginning to return to the city, one thing had changed.  There were now armed guards standing at what felt like every street corner.  

On the corner of 18th and L, where a Borders Bookstore was, there was a huge tanker sitting at the corner with a soldier standing guard-- stoic and ready, gripping his machine gun.  All around people walked by, going about their days, yet this stood out to me.  I remember thinking, this is an image I associated with war torn lands, not our bustling streets.  Eventually that stopped, but the image remains.

That was 2001.  In 2003, Terry and I made the decision to move to Maine and did in 2004.  I couldn't have been more ready to leave. It felt like my city had changed, and of course it had.  I was ready to go.

Now here we are 10 years later, and I find myself grateful that G is too young to know what this day represents, and that I can put off having to explain it to him for just a little bit longer.

Our day yesterday was full of the things we may take for granted every day---the freedom to run, play, laugh, explore.  To not deal with armed guards or threats or worries of bombs, planes, destruction, chaos, terror.    I need the time to think about how I will someday explain it all to him. But I know one thing--I'll start by telling him the sky was blue.

No comments:

Post a Comment