Her voice sounded anxious... excited, confused, colorful. Even in the haze of sleep that surrounded my tired body and my exhausted mind, her voice cut, even before her words.
"New York- it's on fire- something happened- go turn on your TV!" Eryka screamed into my cell phone.
I stumbled into the living room of an apartment that wasn't mine, turned on a television that wasn't mine and sat on a couch that wasn't mine. Without my contacts in, I quickly moved to sitting on the floor in front of the TV. There was smoke pouring out of the side of a building- a building that had no particular connection to me. "... World Trade Center..." said one of the voices from the morning news broadcast... I think it was Diane Sawyer. I sat, dumbfounded, and tried to process what was happening. By the time the second tower was struck and the word terrorism had been spit from the mouths of the newspeople, I was on the phone with Sean. Corporate had closed every branch of Rand McNally retail stores, and after calling the staff, he came to pick me up. Before he got there, I watched the towers fall.
I got a call from the airline where my roommate worked saying she was safe and grounded in Houston. I stopped worrying about her and started worrying about Michelle, my friend who loved so many in New York City. I got ready and put some food together, and Sean and I went to sit with Michelle so she would not be alone.
When we got to her house, she had already take 3 Valium. My memories of that day are of her; seeing her mourn for the city she loved, watching her worry over friends and family who she couldn't contact, uniting with her in anger and confusion over the "who" and "how" and "why" of the day. She laid down in front of the TV, alternating between sleeping, watching the unending newscast, and caressing the photo of the twin towers in her coffee-table book of NYC. The rest of the day is a blur- I got my period... none of us ate all day... I got home and was scared to be alone.
The next day the US State Department would buy out the entire stock of Rand McNally maps of the Middle East and Afghanistan. Within a few weeks, the globe in the front of the store would have a worn spot over the country of Afghanistan. Rand would produce a special edition map showing Afghanistan, India, and the Middle East. The "Flags of the Nations" display would be vandalized, and we would be sold out of everything and anything with an American flag on it. We would sell maps and road atlases galore to those trying to find their way home while all of the air travel was shut down, and globe sales would shoot up well before Christmas as our world became a little smaller.
But that night, I was sad, just as I am now. I recognized that just as the assination of JFK would be the defining moment of my parents' generation, 9/11 would be the defining moment of my generation. And I have no words for how disenchanting that was.
Today I remember those who were killed, innocent victims of an act of hate and terror. I remember those who lost their lives in their intuitive response to disaster- trying to help other people. And I remember that no matter what your role was in that day: observer, escapee, victim, bystander... even instigator of terror... we are all in the same boat, and we all need the grace of God that is new every morning.