I remember it was a Tuesday.
I didn't have class on Tuesdays back in those days; it was a work-day for me (prepping, grading, research, and later, after I bought my house that fall - going to my house and painting and preparing for my move).
Most of my memories of that day are pretty disjointed now - I remember the shock and the fact that my mind went to the worst possible places (I remember calling my parents, with the intent of getting my brother and sister in law's new phone number, so I could call THEM and tell them to get the H out of the Chicago area, because I believed that Chicago and LA were probably the next to be hit). I remember going and buying bottled water "just in case," and waiting in a long line and paying far more than I probably should have (and about what I pay for a gallon now) for gas to fill my tank, after my dad advised me to do so.
I remember my then-chair coming by my office, as I was struggling to write a Biostats exam (and feeling how futile it was, considering what had happened) and telling me to go home, that they had closed campus. To this day I don't know if it was done out of respect for all who died, or out of concern that there might be more attacks coming.
I also remember going to my credit union and getting the cashier's check for my home purchase, locking it in my filing cabinet, and carrying the key around in my brassiere for two days - because at that point in time I didn't know if the banks would be able to stay open.
It seems strange and panicked to me now, to think of those precautions. But really, we didn't know what was going to happen, I remember some of the rumors that few around at that time.
But I also remember my mom telling me over the phone, "I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. I thought the world was going to end, then." (She would have been younger then than I was on Sept. 11. Younger, relatively newly married, living in a university town, though a larger one than the one in which I live).
I watched part of a documentary on it on Nat Geo this weekend, and I realized something: If I were a completely newly-created being, or an alien from a distant planet, and knew nothing of the history, I'd look at the footage and think, "Wow, that movie is horrific but the special effects must have taken a lot of work." It is hard to believe the magnitude of what happened.
And as I think about it this year, I find myself thinking the same thing I think most years (and this is an example of "How you do anything is how you do everything"): I say to myself, "You need to be a better person. You did not lose anyone that you knew well that day. You did not witness the attacks in person. You were never really in any danger. But you should still treat every day as a gift."
But still, I find myself getting crabby about stuff. Stupid stuff. (I don't know. Is it wrong to get crabby over being sent unsolicited dvds and told "preview these and you can either pay for them or send them back"? I mean, there was a postpaid envelope but it took a certain amount of rigamarole to get the dvd in and find the address card and make everything fit).
And then I feel bad over getting crabby about it.And I feel bad about all the crabbiness I see around me. And bad that I'm contributing to it. I don't know. (I could blame it on the ragweed; I've felt pretty awful these past few days and I'm sure that's it). I also think of the "volunteer spirit" that seemed to come out in the wake of the events, and all the people who went to houses of worship to pray and just to be with other people. And from where I stand, that seems to have dwindled away, and it makes me kind of sad that it seems like it takes a big awful event to make people care, to make them sit up and take notice of something outside themselves.
(And I find myself wondering about Pearl Harbor. I don't know that there's anyone left who was an adult or almost an adult when that happened. My dad says he just barely remembers the adults being "concerned" about something that came over the radio about that time, but he was a very small child. Were people's reactions the same? Different? The world is in some way a different place now, but I don't think people have changed much - heck, I don't think people have changed much in 2000 years, given some of the stuff Paul wrote about churches in-fighting over.)
So I don't know. I say to myself about how I need to be a better person and need to look for the good in life, but then I let myself get overwhelmed and wind up running around the kitchen trying to put together a salad for a potluck and going "I can't find the lumping garlic powder! Where is the lumping garlic powder! Why can't I ever find anything when I need it?" (Yeah, I kind of go into Lumpy Space Princess mode when I'm in a bad mood).
I guess it comes down to something I read in a novel some years back - about how it's easy to be a saint if you're up in a retreat on a mountaintop, the real challenge is to try to do that down among people and mired in real life.