When the World Stopped Turning

Where were you?

Things that once were…

I was at work.  In fact, I had taken a break and was visiting a favorite site – Cooking Light Message Boards.  Someone posted that a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers. 

I thought maybe it was one of those traffic choppers or small planes.  I never thought of an airliner among those buildings.  And I never thought of it being done deliberately.

The news came in, worse and worse.  Strikes at the Pentagon, a plane downed in Pennsylvania in an act of true heroism…

A dear friend worked near the WTC: she was safe, thank God, but it scarred her for a long time.

The images that came out of that day – the rescue workers going up the stairs as the people came streaming down.  The rescuers, the protectors.  The heroes.

I will say now that I never watched the footage of the plane hitting the tower.  I somehow missed it that first day and the next two.  I wasn’t avoiding it.  The timing was wrong.  And then someone posted it, and I saw the plane take a turn, head toward the tower –  I switched off the video.  I did not need to see it, and I did not need to see the film of the tower going down.  Not that I am squeamish: my line of work – what I do to put bread on the table – has given me a very strong stomach. 

No, I didn’t want to give those villains any further…what?  credit for their villainy?  Fear?  I stopped puzzling about it.

Some years later I went to New York on business.  I had not realized what a hole the absence of The Towers left in the sky.  They had always been a sort of beacon for me.  My first time in NYC, decades ago, I had gotten lost in a snowstorm.  I needed to find the WTC so that I could go into the subway there.  But I couldn’t read the street signs (covered with snow).  A passer-by, hearing that I was lost and looking for the Towers, smiled and pointed.  And there they were against the winter sky, welcoming me.

That presence was gone.  I was disoriented.  I paused at The Battery – you can see the Statue of Liberty there – and strolled through the park.  And I came upon a battered hunk of bronze that looked somehow familiar. 

It was the globe that sat in the plaza at the World Trade Center.  I had passed it many times.  Battered, broken…  How strange to see it.

Where were you?