A phone call from a friend woke us on that unforgettable Tuesday morning in 2001. We scurried from bed, huddled in front of the TV, and watched with the rest of the world while our innocence crumbled to the ground. I still recall my disbelief when the first tower dissolved into rubble. I turned to Dave. “But … there are people in there,” as if my logic could somehow reverse the moment, and silence the thunder, and undo the pain.
But my logic couldn’t quell the horror. September 11th played out before us in stark shades of gray, one camera angle melding into another — an unrelenting parade of confusion and terror and grief.
I left my family sitting together on the couch. At the sink, I washed my hands and pulled out a frying pan, with no plan except that I was about to cook something. Tacos, I thought. Dave loves tacos. If I made them for a month straight, he’d probably still light up at the suggestion on day 32.
I crumbled, fried, chopped, sliced, stirred, scooped and slathered. Then I arranged those tacos on three plates, brought them to the living room, and watched for the briefest of moments — with my back to the TV — while my loved ones began eating. But it wasn’t enough for me.
I went back in the kitchen, stood again staring out the window above the sink, and thought, Cookies. Forty minutes later, I brought a plate of hot-from-the-oven, oozy, gooey, chocolate chip cookies, and glasses of frothy milk.
Then I swept the kitchen floor, and then I mopped. I washed and folded a load of laundry. I scrubbed the sink.
And then, when I couldn’t think of another thing to do, I sat down and cried.
I tried to explain to a friend recently the feelings that come over me when a storm is brewing, or the sky simply turns gray, or daytime TV turns to an indescribable nightmare. I morph into a giant hen, with wings that hunger for the feel of haven-seeking loved ones.
Today, eleven years later, every channel is rerunning scenes of that long-ago chaos. Me? I’m rerunning the sight of my black cast-iron pan, with remnants of taco meat, and feeling again the inherent hope that I can chase all that sadness for the span of five minutes.
This world, I have learned, is not my home. Not even close.