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Where were you?
For me, it was completely random. I was in a place I had never been before and would never be again. But one that is forever seared into my memory.
A few weeks into my one and only year teaching middle school in Cleveland Municipal, I had a two day in-service for something I’ve completely forgotten and was sent to a computer lab at Margaret Ireland Elementary School. After several hours of sitting in a roomful of teachers, bored but lulled by the sun streaming in the windows and (more importantly) by the fact that we had no unruly middle schoolers to control for the entire day, we were given a ten-minute break to use the bathroom and get a drink. I walked down the hall, awed by the sweet little children quietly learning (pathetically unlike the middle school where I was employed), when I passed a teacher who worked there. “It’s so peaceful here,” I couldn’t help but gush.
“Peaceful?!” she shouted, clearly distraught. “Peaceful?! We’ve been attacked!”
I had no idea what she was talking about and actually thought maybe she was overreacting to some minor elementary disciplinary issue (boy, she should check out Spellacy if she wants to see attacks). So I returned to the computer room and found it abuzz. People trying to get online but frustrated by the old dial-up connections, slower than ever on that day, some talking anxiously into their cell phones (big, flip-phones with antennae — my, how much changes in ten years), words flying through the air: attacked, World Trade Center, airplanes, terrorists, Pentagon, … war.
War? Wait … what? War doesn’t happen here.
Bits and pieces of information were shared by anyone with a connection to anyone. But nothing really made sense. Obviously, at that point, no one knew anything about what was happening and, of course, as we all found out over the days and weeks ahead, none of it could have made sense anyway. None of what was post-9/11 could have ever made sense to those of us still living in pre-9/11.
Except that it had happened. It had, indeed, happened. Finally, our instructor sent us home and two teachers piled into my car and drove through an oddly crowded by subdued downtown to the duplex I shared with Mark, my fiance of just a few weeks. It’s funny that I spent that afternoon with two people whose names I barely remember. One was Matt (I think?) and I know that he was in the National Guard, which I’m sure gave that day a whole other meaning for him. The other was a young woman named Erin who only lasted a month or two at that extremely tough school and then I never saw her again.
But we were together that day. Because no one wanted to be alone. Mark came home, released early from his law school classes, since Cleveland believed it was under attack too with Flight 93 circling overhead. We all sat in my living room, watching TV in stunned silence as the footage played over and over again. Towers being hit over and over again, towers falling over and over again, as if hundreds of planes had hit hundreds of towers and tens of thousands of terrified workers had jumped to their deaths.
I don’t remember much about the rest of the day, except talking to my mom on the phone, as she checked on the safety of each of her children. What did we have for dinner that night, I wonder, those of us who sat safely in our living rooms crying in front of the television while our own country was in chaos? While people in nearby cities were searching for their loved ones or lying crushed under piles of rubble? We must have eaten and eventually town ourselves away from the news to brush our teeth and go to bed, right? Right?
I remember in those first few days being most upset by a few young women I saw on TV who were searching for their fiances. As a newly engaged person who felt like I’d finally found my “one,” these were the people I most identified with. If it happened today, I would be most saddened by the mothers who’d lost their children. But at that moment in my life, the greatest love I’d known was Mark and so those were the stories that broke my heart. I do hope they found someone else, those women on the verge of happiness.
I drove past Margaret Ireland Elementary today with Austin, on our way to the granite store downtown. It looks the same. But I know it’s not.
“That’s where I was,” I said out loud, half to Austin and half to no one. That’s where I was when everything changed.
Where were you?
You know I’m a planner. Especially at this time of year with holiday parties and family gatherings and Breadan’s December 24th birthday, which needs to be celebrated both at school and at a party all while keeping it separate from Christmas. Add to that the fact that our house might be ready to move into a mere week before Christmas and I am really really wishing I was able to plan.
But plan, I cannot.
Austin’s ultrasound has been moved from the 10th to the 15th, due to the radiologist’s schedule, which could truly screw us for the holidays. If this mass is indeed growing, I imagine we would check in that afternoon for a surgery the next day. That gives us nine quick days for recovery, eight if we want to be home on Christmas Eve. Now remember, back in April we expected to be in for ten to fourteen days and Austin was home jumping down the stairs in just three. But when he had his right kidney removed in September 2007, he had a ten-day ileus, prolonging what was already the worst time in our lives. The ileus, for those of you new to our story, is a common post-operative intestinal blockage that is not dangerous but is truly miserable. It renders the poor patient unable to eat or drink anything by mouth, not even an ice chip or sip of water. They usually last for three to five days, but Austin (with his tendency to ignore such rules and parameters) has had one ileus that lasted for eight and another for ten. Not to mention, he would need to get established on dialysis and I have no idea what that entails. So, we would only be able to hope beyond hope that we would spend Christmas together under one roof.
Well, no, I think we would spend Christmas together under one roof; just not under either of the roofs we had hoped for. If we’re actually still in the hospital for Christmas, I hope we would all be able to sleep there together on a variety of cots and couches. Braedan’s never stayed the night before but it certainly seems the right thing to do. Oh, but I know there are restrictions on sibling visits during flu season. Any of you nurses reading, let me know if there are exceptions made for the holidays.
Now of course, the other thing we must hope beyond hope for is that the mass isn’t growing at all and that we get to wait a few more weeks before taking any action. Or that maybe, just maybe, it has disappeared. I have no idea what that would mean and am not even sure if such a mystery would make us feel better, but it would at least buy us some time. And with two little boys who are most excited to discover Santa’s deliveries on Christmas morning, time is all we need.