Was asleep at home in Davis, California. School hadn't started, so we were not accustomed to being up early. At about 7:30 the phone rang, and Steve stumbled off to get it. I heard him saying, "Hi...No, no we haven't...Oh...Oh..." (Now stumbling with the phone out into the living room, where the TV is.) "Oh, no...All right...Bye." Heard the TV being switched on, volume too low for me to hear from the bedroom. I stubbornly wanted to believe that his mom had just called to tell us that a thunderstorm was headed for Lake Tahoe or something, since we were going up there that day for Steve's field work.
"Who was it?" I called.
"Your mom..." said Steve, now getting a picture of something on the TV. "Oh no..."
My feet were on the floor in a second. "What's happening?"
"Bad things...very bad things."
I went out to the living room, but before entering it, paused for a second with both hands pressed near my mouth, steeling myself for the all-out nuclear war I was sure I was about to see. Hadn't I had this nightmare before?
Then I sat beside Steve on the couch. There on our new TV (a gift for ourselves for our wedding, barely three months earlier) were the towers of the World Trade Center, collapsing in black smoke and orange flame. I think I asked who did this. Steve hadn't had time to get the story yet: "Your mom said they were bombing New York and Boston." (Don't you love how rumors spread in the face of panic?) But before long we had the now-very-familiar shots of the planes hitting the towers, and knew we were not dealing with a foreign nation, exactly, but with terrorists. They also showed us the Pentagon - D.C. was being hit, too.
Almost immediately they brought breaking news of another plane down in Pennsylvania. It seemed like our planes were falling out of the sky like meteorites. How did they do all this?
Well, that was the extent of it, as it turned out. It wasn't nuclear war and it was "only" four planes. And I didn't even know anyone who was killed - though my aunt-in-law had a good friend who was a stewardess on one of the flights. That's my closest degree of separation, I believe. As I've said, I'm lucky. Plenty of women my age were widowed that day.
We went to Lake Tahoe anyway, figuring it was as safe a place to be as Davis, and we might as well get some work done. We listened to the radio the whole way, getting the reports as they came in. It was surreal to hear of the devastation and horror while looking at the scenic quiet of the Sierra Nevada. They said that hundreds of people were already lined up outside blood banks in Sacramento to help the victims - Sacramento! 2500 miles away! This touched me very much. It was the first time I realized Americans weren't going to cower and look the other way, as I'd feared. I had been dreading a response like, "Yes, well, we (or "you") deserved it. Death happens every day; let's just move on." And those responses DID come eventually, from the usual corners. But not from the average citizen. The average citizen, the overwhelming majority of citizens, saw their country or ally wounded, and rushed to help. It gave me hope that despite what had happened, the majority of people in the world are actually good.
As for me, I decided something along the lines of, "All right. I'll stop complaining. Give me hard classes, throw paperwork annoyances at me, make me live with ugly California, good, fine, whatever - just don't hijack my plane and crash it into a building."
So, while I don't like having death-related nightmares particularly, they're useful for recovering that sober and sensible state of mind. Hope you all can keep priorities and perspectives clear today too. Give your loved ones a hug, and have a good day.