Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where were you?

Mr. Dog and I are about to celebrate seven years of wedded bliss. That's right, we got married right after Sept 11, 2001. September 11th was a Tuesday that year, our wedding was Saturday, Sept 15th.

I had an appointment for physical therapy early that morning and then was supposed to go in to work for the last day before I took off for the wedding. I remember thinking the DJs on the radio were making a terrible, tasteless joke as they discussed what they were hearing from callers. I remember pulling into the parking structure and seeing the plane fly right into the tower, and even then I don't think I grasped the full impact of what this meant. Just how much it would alter the world.

I went home to find Mr. Dog. We sat in stunned slience watching endless news reports, constant rebroadcasting of the second plane's impact. We sat together until we couldn't watch anymore. We decided to go out to the park with the dogs. And it turned out we were not alone in needing to talk to other people.

I remember standing in Dolores Park that afternoon with Mr. Dog and a group of our dog park friends discussing who could possibly be responsible for such a horrific act of terrorism. I remember the sounds of police or fire engine sirens in the distance bringing our small group to absolute silence. I remember discussing what might happen next, if San Francisco was safe.

Later that day we learned that Mr. Dog's sister had been on a flight that in the air as the attacks took place. Her flight was grounded in Las Vegas. We had no way to reach her. The airline would not give any details on the accommodation arrangements made for the people stranded by the emergency landings. This made me worry more. And I was also worried about other guests who might have been in the air, several coming from New York or Boston, and I worried that they were on those planes.

Mr. Dog and I discussed canceling the wedding, the logistics of rescheduling everything we'd been planning for over a year, and then decided against it. We were not going to put off our marriage, that was important.

Guests called to cancel, other called to reassure us they were going to do whatever it took to get there. I remember distinctly telling a couple of guest that there was no way I'd expect them to get on a flight. Turns out the bigger problem was getting on a flight at all, airports closed and opened with almost no notice. Mr. Dog's brother tried, but no flights were leaving the NY area. Mr. Dog's friend from Boston managed to cobble together a series of connecting flights that let her arrive just as I walked down the aisle. She was meant to be part of his wedding party, and though she did not get to stand up with him as we said our vows, I am still humbled by her tenacity and commitment to be there to celebrate with us. My grandparents also were able to fly. Only because a kindly security officer saw my 90-something grandfather waiting in he massive queue that stretched the length of the sidewalk in front of the St. Louis departures terminal and brought him to the head of the line. I think of this man's kindness every time I think of our wedding.

And I think of the others who attended unexpectedly. A friend of a guest, unable to return to London. A friend who had declined because he had been planning to be in New York with friends suddenly became available. I later heard that one of the friends he was going to visit had perished in the towers.

I remember my dad, when delivering his toast, thanking everyone for coming to celebrate our joy despite the national tragedy. And I remember the relief we all felt for having a few hours away from the horror. (I also remember our friends partying like it was the end of the world, and I suspect we drank the open bar dry). And when the reception was over, we invited everyone over to our apartment, and continued on until the wee hours.

We see the aftermath of these events all around us now. At the time we didn't really know to the extent it would shape our experiences. I knew it was monumental, but I don't think I could have ever predicted just how broad the scope of impact would be. I don't think anyone could.

So where were you seven years ago?


Sarah Vasquez said...

Well, um... I was sitting in my 9th grade English class. Since we were in a private school we didn't have a radio or tv in the room. I remember everyone wondering where the hell our teacher was, the school being put on lockdown and the principal coming in telling us that two planes had crashed into the WTC. None of us even knew what it was at the time.

On a happier note, I demand wedding pictures!!!

Kirsten said...

I was sitting in a hotel room in Boise, Idaho with my 10-month-old daughter waiting for my husband to come back from his morning run. I turned on the news and saw the smoking towers. My heart sank. We were an active duty military family at the time, and my stomach turned to think that he might be going somewhere dangerous when we should be moving in the next 6 months. We spent the afternoon with our realtor looking at houses. It was surreal. It still makes me tear up to think of that day.

I listen to NPR and they have the Story Corps segment. They had an interview between a mom and her relatively young son (he was only 5 in 2001). He lost his grandfather in the towers. Halfway through the Q&A his voice broke and it was hard for him to continue through the pain of losing his "favorite grandpa", but he did. It took my breath away.

On that note...

Kaza said...

Happy Anniversary! We ended up getting engaged not long after, and married the following summer. I think it really inspired us to seize the day and not waste any more time.

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