It's surprising how fresh it still is, five years later. Five years is not a long time anymore at this point, but these five years in particular have been, in reality, a lifetime -- adding further to the surprise when I am reminded, again, that the mind covers over things better than the heart does.
I never turn the television on in the morning, but for some reason that morning I did. I was brushing my hair in the bathroom and gradually became aware of a commotion coming from the TV screen in the living room. I heard something about a building being hit. It was a bit surreal; I didn't realize what was happening. I continued getting ready for work, and for reasons that still escape me -- probably a combination of not paying enough attention to what was being said, and the casual, sorely misguided assumption that was my birthright -- get ready to cringe -- that nothing really bad could happen on American soil -- I just kind of thought, "Huh!" It wasn't until I was driving down the 405, from Los Angeles to Manhattan Beach, and the sign on the freeway said LAX CLOSED, that it started to sink in. The announcer's words from the TV echoed in my head over and over and it began making sense, as much sense as was possible.
In my recollections now the office was very dark when I arrived there to find people in a state of shock. I got the full story -- such as it was at that point -- from them, and then I just shut down, leaving the extremities of my body, my soul shivering in the very center. I called my husband, who worked at a news agency near LAX, and begged him to come home. He refused. He said he'd be fine, and that it was his responsibility to disseminate news as it came in. I recall one of the men I worked with, a big, tough man, nearly frantic because he couldn't get hold of a family friend in the city. One of the women I worked with had brought her two kids with her. She had no nearby family and she wasn't going to drop her kids off at school, so they came with her, silent, wide-eyed. Her daughter later asked her if I was alright. "Emma looked so sad," she said. We all exchanged phone numbers, cell numbers, emergency contact numbers. We had no idea what was happening. There was talk of some people going on a long, long camping trip. Anything seemed possible, and I drove home scanning the skies for planes, cringing at every sound, fully expecting to be blown up, waiting for the sky to fall.