The hubster and I were on vacation on September 11th, waking up at a bed and breakfast in Anacortes, Washington. There was no television, so we were half-listening to a Canadian radio station (in French) as we chatted happily about our plans for the week, glad we had decided to visit this remote place instead of our first plan to visit New York City. In between our talking, I remember thinking that the radio hosts were getting pretty worked up about some sort of hypothetical terrorist attack. Then they started talking faster, and, for me, a bit incomprehensibly before saying, “Oh mon dieu! Mon dieu!” At that point, I knew it wasn’t a hypothetical situation and told the hubster we better search the dial for something in English. Then we knew. The “mon dieus” were the first tower collapsing and our world changing.
We went to breakfast and the truth of the morning hovered like a pall, affecting everyone with its ripples of darkness, and occasionally letting in more light. At first, it was quiet, guests eating in disbelief and wonder. Soon, however, another couple arrived, angry and ready to bear arms against any and all who disagreed with their brand of thinking. All while I ate my sausage and eggs. I decided I didn’t like B&B’s anymore.
Then there was the question of travel. We were meant to take the ferry to Orcas Island later in the morning, but there were serious doubts it would be running. At that point, no one knew what other modes of travel would be hijacked or sabotaged. It was such an awful, conflicted feeling. “I want my vacation to go on, despite the world crashing down.” And then, just like that, it did. We loaded our car onto the ferry and chugged along the water, admiring the views of land and sea under a bright blue sky, all the while feeling rather heavy and sad.
We arrived and did all the normal activities one expects, getting a little lost before gaining our bearings, shopping for groceries and at the touristy shops, eating the pure goodness of a lemon-slice pie at a cute-as-can-be restaurant, walking, hiking, reading, star-gazing. We were lucky and knew it, heart and soul.
Most striking were the absences. So many of my memories are like films, a Super 8 reel peppered with soundtracks of voices, laughter, music, animals, passing trains, planes, and automobiles. This would not be the case, here, in this place, for there was a dearth of sound. Hardly anyone spoke, anywhere, save to convey essential information. Then there was the house. It lay just a few hundred yards from the end of the road, a beautiful, contemplative spot, surrounded by gardens, a view of the water, and still more quiet. There were no trains, certainly no planes, and not a single automobile sound penetrated the woods. What’s more, there was no television or newspaper, absolutely no image of the tragedy that occurred. So in my normally vivid imagination, when I thought about what happened, there was a distinct blackness and the occasional radio voice to fill the void.
Ten years gone. Has it really been so long? Now there are pictures, horrible and terrifying, and sounds equally so, and a change in perspective with the fluidity of time. Before, the only loss was of my naiveté. Now, my brother is a firefighter, living and breathing, yet he is every single one who died that day. The shy smile, the tilt of the head, the conviction to move forward before all was lost and we had to start anew, every single day.
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