Friday, September 9, 2011

Where I Was

The last-minute off-to-school flurry was at its chaotic apex when 13-year-old Boy#2 appeared in the door to the kitchen. He moved stiffly and spoke anxiously.

"Mom, I can't move my neck. I've been in the shower trying to loosen it up, and I can't turn my head."

The terrible things that this could be flashed through my mind. Meningitis. Encephalitis. Polio. Before I had reached Boy's side the tasks that had been so crucial a few moments before were forgotten, the lunch sandwiches still open-faced on the kitchen counter as I picked up the phone to call the doctor.

I didn't turn off the radio, though, and as I spoke to the nurse I vaguely heard the puzzled note in the NPR announcer's voice as he informed us that a plane had flown into a World Trade Center tower. I'm sure I paused to listen for a moment, but I'm also sure that in that moment the welfare of my son was much more crucial to me than what I expected would turn out to be a minor news bulletin.

Even later, as I sat with Two waiting until it was time to leave for his doctor's appointment and we saw the Twin Towers fall, I couldn't comprehend that we were seeing the end of our illusion that Americans are beloved around the world. I was much more preoccupied by the lump on my son's neck, and whether this child, my child, was in danger. I resisted the almost irresistible urge to drive from school to school picking up my sons and my husband, yearning to have them close enough to touch.

Much later that day Two's doctor, in tones that were sombered by the events of the world, told me  that a lymph node in my son's neck was reacting to a virus, and that in a few days he would be fine.

Then, with my own child safe,  I could begin to grieve for the other mothers and wives and husbands and children who lost loved ones that day, and to think about how really, we would never feel completely safe in this world again.

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