I remember everything I did on September 10th, 2001, which was, blessedly, an outrageously normal day. We went to Bloomingdale's because I needed nursing bras and the saleslady, a gigantic, friendly woman, talked me into two different sizes based on how much bigger my breasts were going to get. She turned out to be right, but I wouldn't know that for another few months. We found and bought mattress pads that we're still using. I called a friend and took my then two-year-old son for a play date with her daughters, who were a year older, and expressed their affection for him by sharing their boxes of raisins and then sitting on him. I was about to rescue him when I realized that he didn't mind having two pretty little girls sit on him one bit. But eventually all three children wanted to go to the playground, and ran around there, and the other mom and I chatted about what to feed them and how one ever got them them to go to bed. The ordinariness of the day has stayed with me: the next morning her husband, who worked in one of the towers, was missing, and only by late in the evening when she had almost given up hope did he finally make it home.
That morning, September 11, our two year old was watching Barney the Dinosaur, which got interrupted by a news flash showing a plane hitting the World Trade Center. My husband scooped up our son, who was very angry about the disappearance of Barney, and took him to the playground because the phone had rung: a friend of mine was glad to hear I was home, because had I heard? I was just beginning to hear, and thanking my lucky stars that I no longer worked in New Jersey and took the PATH train from right under the World Trade Center anymore. I'd missed the first bombing, in 1993, by about ten minutes, and students of mine who worked in the Wall street area told me they'd been blown out of their seats by the force of the blast. And back in 1993, everyone assured us that nothing like this could ever possibly happen again.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was three months pregnant and asked my husband what kind of a world we were bringing this child into.
"The only world we have," he pointed out.
When, this past August, we saw the memorial fountains and museum, when I chatted with a friend who said, "oh, yeah, I was in fifth grade then," when I looked at children running around downtown New York, I felt, probably, the way everyone who has witnessed something new and horrifying feels: that it should be remembered, that it cannot be told, that as indelible as it is to people who were there, it can never mean the same thing to those who were not, or those who were too young, or those who were not yet born.