As with much of the country, I spent yesterday's sixth anniversary thinking about the events of 9/11. And, as we all do with these life-changing historical events, I was relating what happened then to my own life experiences. That's what we do. We remember where we were and what we felt when John Kennedy was assassinated, when the Challenger burst into flames and fell back to earth, when our schools were integrated for the first time, or when man took those first steps on the moon. So, yesterday here's what I was remembering about September 2001.
I was in New York during the week leading up to 9/11 for a very special reunion with friends from Peace Corps days spent on the island of St. Kitts, West Indies in the early '70s. We were a happy, mismatched group of eight who'd come from Baltimore, England, St. Kitts and Kentucky to renew old friendships, meet new family members, and enjoy all that New York has to offer. Our English friends wanted to do the typical sight seeing. So, we took the ferry around the New York harbor to the Statue of Liberty, climbing to the top of the Lady in order to enjoy the New York skyline. From there, it was easy to identify the distinctive Twin Towers in the distance. . .
Our next stop was Ellis Island. I still remember the exhibits of belongings and mementos that the immigrants coming to the United States carried with them, including baby clothes, fine lacework, jewelry, shoes, and special dishes. On the top level of the museum there were hauntingly beautiful backlit photos of immigrants from all over the world. I remember their eyes especially, and trying to imagine their stories by looking into those eyes. Six years later, I'm saddened that we are now afraid to welcome immigrants to our country. . .
By mid-week, I said good-bye to my friends and joined up with a horticultural tour of Sag Harbor and the Hamptons. We spent several days enjoying the fabulous gardens and homes--it was another world for me. On Sunday, September 9, I flew home from New York for what I thought was going to be a busy three days tying up work assignments and getting ready for another trip. On September 12, I was flying to France for a watercolor workshop/barge trip in the Alsace region.
On Tuesday, the 11th, I went to work with a heavy heart and not much excitement over leaving for France the next day. When I returned from New York I found that my middle dog, 12 year old Frank, was very ill. For weeks I had been taking him to the vet, battling failing kidneys and cancer. At each visit I was asking the vet to help me understand when it was time to be merciful and put him down. The day before, on yet another vet's visit, we decided that the time had come. So, I was to take my much loved Old Boy to the vet that afternoon after work to have him euthanized.
By 9:00 a.m. on September 11, two planes flew into the World Trade Center, starting a chain reaction of tragedies, anger and heroism. For the remainder of September 2001 all I remember is days of almost round the clock following news of rescue efforts, drawing closer to people I love, and trying to figure out what to do locally to help out. I remember life that fall being drilled down to the core. Living at the core--perhaps that's the greatest remembrance we can observe for September 11, 2001.