NPR is bumming me out today, and for good reason. My brain had sort of a weird response when my good friend and roommate Carrie woke me up 10 years ago today to say that someone flew a plane into the World Trade Center. I remember rolling over and mumbling “what does that even mean?” Then I really woke up, anxiety pulling me out of bed and into the kitchen where Carrie, our other friend and roommate Cybil, and I made tea and then spent the rest of the morning sitting on the living room floor, watching things unfold, and watching Tower 2 of the World Trade Center fall.
When Carrie and Cybil both left for work, I remember feeling super anxious, I had the day off and needed something to do with myself besides watch the news. It seems sort of selfish looking back now, but at the time I didn’t want to be in public, to have to look at strangers faces and wonder how they were feeling, if they lost someone. So I took a long walk by myself at one of my favorite places on earth, Summerland Beach. That walk was a weird mixture of calm and upset. Being at the ocean always calms my nerves; it reminds me that we are so small in a big world that was beautiful long before we were here, and will keep going long after we are gone. But it was also heartbreaking to watch the waves, feel the sand in between my toes, and know that because of the horrific actions of a few; so many would never feel sand or see waves again, not to mention see their wives, children, mothers and fathers again.
Later that afternoon, my friend Mel came over and we did a trial run of her make-up for her upcoming wedding. We were both in solemn moods, I remember that it was a really nice feeling to be with a friend, and be preparing for something that would be beautiful and positive, her marriage to Russ that was just a few days away.
The week after 9/11 was surreal, of course. I’m sure most people feel that way about it now. I remember a friend’s mom calling to advise us to get all of our cash out of the bank. I was broke, so I didn’t have cash to worry about. I remember Carrie, Cybil, and I stocking up on water, just in case. But there are two things I remember most about that week that, despite the sadness and anxiety that hung in the air, I look back on and they make me exceptionally happy.
One was the dinner party that Carrie, Cybil, and I hosted. We hosted dinner parties at our house often, and the one that we held that week was like medicine on a wound. After feeling so many negative emotions, I think we all needed to gather our friends and be thankful. I know I was, and still am, thankful for all of the friends who spent that evening in our living room that week. I remember that we talked about the scary and sad things; planes, death, terrorism, politics. But we also laughed, and just enjoyed being in each others company.
The second happy event that week was Russ and Mel’s wedding. I have been to countless weddings since then, all memorable in their own right. But Russ and Mel’s anniversary is probably the only friends anniversary that I remember every single year. They held their wedding at Los Positas Park. Mel looked beautiful with beads shining in her curly hair, and her make-up looked great, if I do say so myself. Russ’s grin was pure joy when she walked down the grassy aisle between friends and family.
Planes had been grounded for several days, and the skies had been very quiet. I think we all were a little surprised when a plane flew overhead during their ceremony. It was quiet, but it left a trail in the sky. It might have been the first plane I’d seen in the air since 9/11 a few days before. As weird as it sounds, I think it was perfectly timed to see planes resuming their flights during a wedding between two such lovely people. I think it was a reminder to all of us to resume our flights. Russ and Mel resumed their wedding ceremony after that plane passed. Then they flew into marriage and are still flying 10 years and two kids later.
Those friends that I spent weeks and months and years with in Santa Barbara following 9/11 have flown in many directions, and many of us live very different lives now than we did then. On this day, every year, I pause for a moment to think about those who sacrificed their lives to try and save others. I think of those who lost people they loved in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. And I also think of my Santa Barbara friends, and am thankful. I hope they are all well, wherever they might be on this day.