This Viral Voyage Breaks for Anniversaries and Interruptions
First, thank you to my new followers!
I’m recording my viral voyage because I believe there needs to be one entire record somewhere that anyone can read at any time. It will be a river that carries things along with it. It will be a river whose flow will be interrupted.
Since I was last here, I’ve been poisoned by mothballs, terrified I had Covid again, took two tests, had a credit card hacked, been tested for an ulcer, and now have all kinds of things messed up on one computer.
Tomorrow, I’ll post what I meant to post before September 11— I think. I dipped into real time tonight because because 9/11 made what I had prepared seem out of step with the rest of the world.
I have a strange relationship with the 9/11. On September 9, 2001, I awoke in Hotel Asterix outside Paris, France. I slept in a delightful forest cabin, paid for by Air France. My plane from Madrid had been detained overnight in Paris. On the way to the hotel, I joined up with a sweet elderly couple from Dallas from the flight. I could still muster some college French, which I used to hail a cab, whose driver was Korean. The hotel restaurant served great food. I could even predict what it was. Yes, I could still read that much French, decades away from the college classes I adored.
Dr Regine Reynolds would breeze into the classroom, smiling broadly, saying, “Bonjour!” She had short red hair and wore spiffy little ankle boots with straight dresses that broke right at the knee. She was a big fashionable puff of fresh air. That smile! Never saw another smile like hers. I’d wanted to study French all my life. She was my angel, my magician, making my dream come true. Bit by bit, years later, the vocab came back: how to ask for directions, order food, pay compliments. I owe her.
It was also helpful and reassuring to speak English with fellow Texans. I was flying home from Madrid to Wichita Falls because my mother was dying. I was hoping to get there in time to say goodbye, to hold her one last time. I made it in time to visit the hospital on 09/10 and spend that whole day with her. She was skeletal-thin; her deep brown eyes were still full, though, and thoroughly her own. I left the hospital to go back to the family home to sleep.
The morning of the 11th, my sister called to tell me about the towers, the planes, the disaster, the terror, the shock. I dressed quickly and went to the hospital. Once there, I turned off the television. I wouldn’t let that horror into the room where my mother was living her last moments on earth.
At 6 p.m. my mother whispered to me that she “couldn’t make it” much longer. She waited until my father had slipped out for coffee to tell me. She almost never talked about dying in front of him. God bless him, no matter how awful things were, he couldn’t let that possibility into his mind. Her breathing became labored and sounded, put simply, wrong. The nurse called Code Blue. The staff told me to leave the room. I refused. They gently pushed me out the door. I kept my arm wrapped around my father’s waist for the few moments we waited in the hall. In those moments, her soul slipped away.
My mother died on 9/11/2001. Some of her friends believed she chose that time to die, so that her soul could help and comfort some of those for whom death had come as a shock. She had had years to be ready. I wonder if there were other people in other places who died quietly that day … people we’ll never know about, whose souls lifted to that higher level to greet, comfort, or counsel the souls who’d had no chance to prepare.
As the years have passed, if the subject ever comes up, people ask, did your mother die in 9/11 or on 9/11? You can see the relief on people’s faces, as they think that somehow her death was easier for her, easier for us, simply because she was not at the towers. The date mattered though, even here in Texas. It affected all aspects of her funeral. My son was stuck in Europe. Many people who wanted and needed to come could not get a flight. At the graveside, the young man who helped set up chairs told us he was still waiting to hear if his father, who’d been at the towers on that day, was alive.
It’s hard to believe 20 years have passed. It’s hard to remember how joyful it used to be to fly into an airport and hug the loved ones waiting for you at the gate. I turned off the television and the radio on 9/10 and 9/11 this year. So many stations all covered the same thing, over and over. There was almost no escape.
The anniversary needed to be remembered. I wondered, though, where else would such an anniversary take place? Not in Afghanistan, Syria, Africa, where there have also been terrorist attacks and thousands killed. Even in our grief, as Americans in the US, we have a certain luxury others don’t have. We have the time and the resources to remember, but we also have the remarkable status of having never been invaded. It’s part of why 9/11 has such power for us. We were invaded.
I don’t have numbers, but I imagine that events where 3000-plus people die happen far more than we want to know or remember in more countries than we can count. I read that the number of indigenous children’s graves recently discovered in Canada had reached 1000. That’s just one example, one number, one nation. We know there are more. Here, in this country, what fortune we have to hold these ceremonies, to have time to remember, to read each name. Each name. I feel both blessed and uneasy. Every name of every victim of terrorism everywhere deserves to be read, to be spoken out loud, shared, and honored. And we know that millions of names remain unspoken.
Pain comes from all angles. The pain of people lost that day, made permanently ill by that event, those who have died slowly from those attacks, and the permanence of grief. With time, it can shift, and we can find ways to make it more manageable. But, grief is permanent. How much longer will these names be read? Will other names be read, too? For how many years?
We endure the interruptions that anniversaries are to honor, to remember someone with gratitude and love, to admire their soul’s courage in meeting their fate, and to remember an event with the hope and intention that it does not happen again. We endure anniversaries and the interruptions they bring, because we nearly always learn something new from revisiting that particular piece of the past.
It’s all right that my mother’s death is “lost” among the many who died that day. As long as I live, she will be remembered. While I know and feel that I can never think of 9/11 as the date of her departure only, I take comfort in believing her unique soul would not have been alone on that day in that new kingdom. I wonder, do they have anniversaries there? Or even, a day, as we call that span of time?
Thanks for coming along for this interruption, while my prepared post waits on another device. A result of timing and credit card fraud, this interruption has left me less sure of where my viral voyage will pick up again. There is still so much road to travel, and to tell.