Remembering

I was supposed to write this blog five days ago when we were all focused on remembering. But I haven’t taken this year’s “first day of school” photo either so let’s just say I am working on my time. At my wedding 13 years ago, we somehow missed the all important Christmas card photo, the one with my family plus Greg. My Mother was crushed and so I said let’s redo it. Redo what? her pragmatic self asked. The shot; when Greg and I come home for Thanksgiving. Let’s get dressed up again and stage the photo in the church courtyard. We did and it was fabulously fun. We got to admire one another and how good we still looked. We laughed at the the funny stories from the reception that had not happened when we were supposed to be taking this shot for real. There was no stress about getting grandparents safely to their pew or checking to make sure all the groomsmen were present and accounted for. We relived the day and the pictures show it. Big grins. And in a way more realistic since the wedding was over but the marriage was just starting.

People have been asking me lately how do I have time to write a blog. Answer is I don’t. But you don’t have time to read one either so that makes us even. But only sort of because I am constantly writing a million blog entries in my head, it only takes effort to sit down and spew them out. But afterwards I feel lighter and more right with myself and the world. Perhaps that is why write and right sound the same. So the week got away from me and I was going to skip writing about September 11 all together because I missed it. But that’s not true. Each summer, when we drive back and forth to Maine I suffer through the traffic of the George Washington Bridge and toll just so the girls can look out their windows and see the skyline of the Great Big Apple, like I did as a girl. IT LOOKS SO DIFFERENT without the twin towers. Do I dare say it looks less impressive? Each year on September 11, I think about when Greg and I lived in Manhattan almost under the shadows of the towers. He gave his first sermon in English in St. Paul’s Chapel, the one a friend from seminary turned into a first aid station because it was in the midst of ground zero, yet miraculously unharmed. I read stories about a man trapped underneath in the subway station, the same one I used to walk Sunday mornings when it was dark and quiet and empty. I thought about my cousin whom I love like a sister and worked for a company whose people were wiped out on that day. She was home, on bed-rest waiting for her first baby to come and watching the news in her hormonal state and losing it. About her brother in a meeting in midtown who saw the plane hit and slammed his notebook and abruptly said (with a few swear words thrown in) I am out of here and ran to Grand Central and got the last train out to Connecticut.

But what has been nagging me about September 11 is my Dad. A man who spent 29 years serving the country in the Navy. A preppy New England boy who wound up in NROTC at Auburn after being stuck at St. Paul’s, an all boy boarding school for eight years. Needless to say co-eds far outweighed the hassle of basic training and he was happy to be in the south although it was a VERY different world from the one in which he grew up. Imagine going from the woods of New Hampshire surrounded only by boys and male teachers from elite families to civil-rights-angry-alabama. My father’s NROTC unit was put on “stand-by” when James Meredith was attempting to enter the University of Mississippi. While Dad’s fraternity brothers talked about that annoying nigger, he was learning how to help the National Guard if the same thing happened in Alabama. I remember him telling this story when I was learning about the civil rights movement in high school and thought how cool my Dad was part of history. When I asked if he was scared or worried or mad or what was he feeling, he shrugged and said, I was just doing what I was told. Doing his duty.

So it should not be surprising to learn he volunteered to help when the plane crashed into the Pentagon. His office was across the six lanes of 395 and he could see the hole from his office window. What many don’t think about is the papers at the Pentagon are not for everyone’s viewing. Whether you agree with that or not is not the point. The area could not simply be opened  to any and all volunteers. Think about how spooked everyone was: we had just been attacked by 4 planes. So my Dad, with a full time job and top level security clearance, took on a midnight shift of cleaning and sorting through the rubble. Many did. Showing up and doing what they could. He did not wear a uniform or end up in People magazine. Most people don’t know he even did it. But he does. And I do.

I remember exactly where I was when the second plane hit. I had eaten toasted pumpkin bread with Greg, Joe, and Sarah at Betsy’s in Carytown Richmond. Greg had dropped me at The Martin Agency and as I walked in our atrium, the three story high tv was showing the second plane slice through the World Trade Center. I remember thinking it went it but didn’t come out which must mean the whole thing must have blown up. I was terrified thinking of my cousins and college friends living in the city and wondering if they were ok. But today a week and eleven year later, I remember peoples lives were changed or ended just for showing up. And for those of us lucky enough to still be here, we could be changed too. By showing up and doing what we can.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. As always, glad to hear your perspective on anything, but really glad you didn’t hold back this blog piece in the name of “too tardy.”

    Reply

  2. Touched me. Love you.

    Reply

  3. Posted by cindi bartol on September 16, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    so beautifully woven from your life experiences and reflections into where each of us is called to be and what we can do – and the recall of an old refrain about ‘life is mostly 90% showing up…’

    Reply

  4. beautiful angle on a sad event

    Reply

  5. Posted by Karen Miller Gillis on September 18, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    beautiful piece Mel

    Reply

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