Refuge

Tuesday, 11 September, 2012 Nine Eleven

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I was reading Abigail’s reminiscences on this anniversary this morning and thought I would share my own.

9/11 was also a significant day for me for reasons other than the attack. I was less than a year out of undergrad and it was my very first day of teaching.

While in college I had no intention or desire to be a teacher. Education was the “family business” and I had refused to even consider it, but a job teaching Latin for a local (Evangelical, so that was a little strange) homeschooling co-op more or less fell in my lap. And while I wasn’t thrilled about teaching, I did like Latin and felt I couldn’t refuse a job that had been practically handed to me.

I didn’t own a car and since I was living at my parents’ house (in the SF Bay Area) I had to cross a bridge (automatically lengthens any trip) to get the town where the co-op was so, I was leaving the house before 6 that morning.

My mother had recently become an avid reader of the Drudge Report, which I strongly disapproved of (at the time, Drudge was full of tin-foil-hat reports of UFO’s and the like), as she already liked a good conspiracy theory a bit too much. I was not surprised to find her huddled at the computer with Drudge open as I headed out, nor did I give her even an ounce of credence when she turned and said to me: “they bombed the World Trade Center and now they’re bombing the Pentagon.”

Full sentences are a challenge for me before 10:00 am, let alone at 6 in the morning. I didn’t know what to make of that statement, and anyway she was reading Drudge again, so I said, “Ok, Mom. I have to go now.” and left.

After 2 and a half hours on public transit, I got to the co-op, where I was greeted by the head teacher with, “Oh, good, you came. We were trying to decide whether to go ahead with school today or not and weren’t sure we could reach you.” (Fewer ever-present cell phones 11 years ago!) Still I had no idea what exactly had happened.

I taught my first classes and headed back across the Bay to my second job waiting tables. (That’s what I miss the least about 2001: having 3 jobs.) Everyone was glued to the television, and I was promptly given my shift off and sent home as it seemed unlikely there’d be much in the way of business that evening.

I never saw much footage of the attacks; my parents didn’t own a television at the time. All I’ve seen is the shot of second plane hitting the towers.

It is so strange to me to hear people out East recall how clear and beautiful that day was.  Although I’ve now acclimated to the mid-Atlantic and my body no longer seems to crave the climate I was born in, that the clear weather that day was so remarkable serves as intellectual reminder that the West really is different. And it brings just a touch of longing.

It was a clear day in California, too, on September 11, 2001. But that was nothing to talk about; no one I knew in CA ever remarked on it. It’s clear like that in the Bay Area all September and October and November and any day in the other 4 warmer months after the fog has burned off.

We were very insulated from the reality of 9/11 in CA, padded and protected by the distance from the destruction and the reality of thousands of deaths in just a few minutes. Instead, Flight 93 and its passengers took their well-deserved place in Bay Area disaster-response mythology, (this is what comes of living with earthquakes, fires and floods) where they still, I am glad to say, reside, larger than life.

And I remember the children of the family I rode to the train station with in the afternoons after the co-op school was finished for the day, counting the flags people put out, the way we counted Christmas lights in the car on the way to church when we were young.

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