Ten Years ago-Chicago-

So, I'm having trouble with this 9/11 anniversary. I wasn't in New York. I was standing in front of my classroom at Evanston Township High School talking about HAMLET. Another teacher opened the door and walked in which is weird and she said, "They're attacking New York," and I thought she'd had a nervous breakdown what with just walking in and dropping that non-sequitor and so I said, "Oh, they're always attacking New York," but when I looked into her eyes I didn't see crazy, I saw fear and sadness and another mother wondering, "Holy shit, what will I tell them?" I smiled at the students and said, "I'll be right back," and we walked across the hallway to where the television guy had set up a TV set and there we watched as the second plane hit and from that moment on I thought, "You will know the worst pain, the worst shock, the worst sadness." Any of us who suddenly lost people, in my case a sister killed by a drunken driver, a week of coma, no good-bye, no final hug, no final moment of love and closure. Just gone. And this was so much worse. The sky was completely clear, a glorious September morning.

I went back into the classroom and they looked at me, 25 sixteen year olds. I told them what I knew and that wasn't much. But I remember being lied to when I was that age and I wasn't about to start doing that. The day unscrolled without a moment to stop and think about my ex-husband whose colleagues were in Building 7 or my son who was, as it turned out, sitting in his elementary classroom watching TV because someone thought it was something the children should see until the building fell and they knew to turn it off.

And then there was the awareness of my city lost to me in this Midwestern life, my New York so badly hurt, so petrified and damaged. The Winter Garden where I had become engaged, my Tribeca whose streets I'd walked getting sober and being a writer and learning to love that city like a member of my family, that city that had helped me after Catherine died and I had to get away from a violent marriage. I pieced my life back together in that city, lonely but the Pizza guys always asked me how I was and the cops told me I looked good and somehow I wasn't alone. Marathon walks from my Upper West side apartment all the way downtown, hours and hours of walking, a walkabout where I thought about life and my dead sister and writing and tried to stay optimistic. Running a race through Central Park on New Year's Eve, I looked up to that sky and thanked my city for its sweetness to a lost soul.

In Chicago I ached to go East like a fool. How would I, an English teacher help anyone? No one needed their grammar checked or to discuss great literature. One of my students was asked to leave a Mall because he was dark and looked middle-eastern and he stood in my classroom with tears in his eyes so I helped him. There were flags everywhere. The night of the attacks my ex-husband came over and we talked to our seven year old son who had watched the buildings fall but had no clear idea what the hell was going on.

As I was putting him to bed that night he said,
"Mom, none of the children died. None of the children on that airplane died."
I wanted to lie but then someone else would tell him the truth and it would never end.
"Yes, honey. The children on the plane died."
"But that means they killed them on purpose. Not an accident, right?"
And so he learned about murder, that people hated one another enough to kill children on purpose.
That's what I remember most. The end of my son's innocence. And the jumpers after I finally turned on the television. The brief time they showed those images before the censors kicked in. Finally, I understood. There was nothing but one or another version of hell. I am so sorry. So sorry for it all.


  1. I was with you at ETHS then and I'm with you now as you share your pain and love. You're a good person, Molly. I'm glad to be your friend.

  2. Thanks, Jack! I wasn't going to write about this and then I realized that's what I do so I did. I'm glad to be your friend, also!


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