I normally don’t write about 9/11. I’m not a native New Yorker, I say ‘FTP’ often, and I have never been to the East Coast. Yet, I remember exactly what time I heard when the first plane hit, I know where I was, I remember the shrill tone in my mother’s voice. In this time of COVID-19, it feels surreal: both near and far away.
I was in love with New York City.
I wanted to go to NYU. I thought the farthest I could get away from St. Louis, had to be New York. And I wanted to go. Fashion. Culture. Food. People. I wanted all of it!
In the time of COVID-19, it is weird to remember everything about that day–almost 20 years ago. Even when I think of it now it doesn’t seem like it should be something that happened 20 years ago. That morning, a Tuesday of all things, I remember I was sitting in the room of my mother’s house. I was on the phone, talking to some guy who was not my boyfriend. The radio was on, and I was listening to Z1077–my favorite local station.
I remember hearing something about a plan crashing, and didn’t think anything about it. That is until my mother screamed from downstairs, “Jennifer, is there a movie playing on Channel 4 (the local CBS station)?!” “No!” I screamed back. I think I remember her telling me to come see what she was seeing. I ran down the stairs clad in light blue surgical scrubs, bare feet and a t-shirt. I sat on her bed, mouth looking like a catfish.
I couldn’t believe it! Did I see any planes hit the Twin Towers? No. And I am so thankful that I didn’t. That is one memory of that day I didn’t want. I remember being in a daze. I remember nothing making sense. I remember fasting and praying for about 4,5 days for the first responders. Even praying for the police! I wanted everyone in NYC to be okay. It was a few days later that my mother said this:
“See! See! I saved your life! You wanted to go to New York, and look what happened?! See, you could have been working in one of those towers!”
As a 20-year-old kid (yes, at 20 you’re still a kid!), I rolled my eyes and was aghast she would say such a thing to me. As a 39-year-old woman, whom is the mother of 2? Oh, I can see the prophetic panic in her voice. I can look at her observation in a new light; age is humbling that way. I see her relief that I wasn’t in a tower and died, or having jumped or unconscious and burning to death. I feel her relief and stress knowing that I wasn’t ever probably going to New York–her prayers worked. It was years later that I found out my mother, oh-so God fearing, had prayed for me to not leave St. Louis! When I asked her why she had prayed such a prayer, she said:
“I knew if you had left you would have never come back.”
She was right. I wouldn’t have–ever. My demeanor was such that I would have been homeless in New York City rather than try to admit any sort of defeat and come home. She had, in fact, saved my life.
The memory that stays with me from that day is the helplessness! No one knew what to do other than call and check on the people we knew. I remember being in a daze in the days which followed. Unsure of what to do, what I could do, and wanting to do more than what I thought I could do. I remember feeling this way when Hurricane Katrina hit. I was 24 then. I announced to my mother that “I’m going to New Orleans to volunteer!” She looked at me and said, “No, you aren’t!” I looked at her, incredulous that she dare infringe on my adult decision to go help people! When I asked her why, she only would say, “If something happens, there is no one that can come and get you.”
Remembering 9/11 in the time of Orange Thanos and his henchmen, on top of COVID-19, there is a vulnerability that stays with me. It lingers like the odor of something that is burned. It is unsettling, and scary, and it feels like something else is about to happen. It feels like the ‘next bad thing’ is in arm’s reach. The nation is a state of mourning since the first of the year–over 100,000 people are dead. Yet, there are people today which will cry over the over 3000 whom perished in this act of evil, but will tell other people COVID is a hoax. They will support the police as they arbitrarily kill Black people! They will champion Orange Thanos even while he presides over the most corrupt administration aside from the Tribunal one might see on the way to Hell! As an essential worker, as the daughter of a nurse, as a patient care tech, as a mother, friend and daughter–this day feel like how matches smell before you strike them.
The Weird Sisters of Macbeth said, “Something wicked this way comes.” What happens when the wicked is already here? What can those that strive to do good, and love mercy do other than fight? In the face of mourning, we fight. And we listen to our mothers–they indeed are life-saving.