11 September 2016

Fifteen years later

Fifteen years ago was a gorgeous fall morning.
chicago art institute in the fall

I got off the Metra at LaSalle and started my four-block walk to my office building; a Daniel Burnham structure from 1910 that was across the street from the Art Institute. 

I remember a beautiful blue sky as I cut through the plaza at the Dirksen Federal Building. One of those perfect days you get in Chicago before winter freezes the lake and you consider moving away from the frozen hellscape. 

I remember riding the elevator at about 8:10. 

I remember walking into my offices on the 16th floor. 

I remember everyone gathered around Doris's crap black-and-white portable TV that she kept at her cubicle. 

I remember disbelief. 

I remember horror. 

I remember panic as I frantically tried to pin down where our NYC and DC friends and colleagues were. They had no reason to be anywhere near the crash sites, and yet. 

And yet. 

I remember arguing with my spouse on the phone about coming home. I remember saying that if I left the Loop, the people who did this won. That if it were me, I'd bomb the Metra lines, because commuters would be packing the trains to rush home. I remember saying that walking toward the Sears Tower was dumb, and if they were going to bomb the Art Institue, they'd have done it already. 

I remember the surreal phone call from my OB/GYN nurse. She had no idea what was happening in the world. She called to let me know that after years of secondary infertility, my hormones looked good and that this time, finally, we had a chance of a baby that would stick. 

I remember the mental whiplash. 

I remember still looking for friends online. Searching for old sources from my days in Westchester and realizing that one most certainly was at CantorFitz. 

I remember the staff, myself included, tearing the magazine that was to go to press apart and trying to pull a piece together that was appropriate and on point and ready for press while we were all in the most surreal space. 

I remember friends checking in one by one. Some were scarred forever by what they'd seen. 

I remember walking to the station to go home. The silence. 

No planes to Midway or O'Hare overhead. No rush of commuters. 

I remember the conductor telling me I had been smart, because the morning trains out were a zoo. That he, too, wondered if there would be bombs on the tracks. 

I remember driving home and thinking that life has changed forever. That I was bringing a new life into it, and oh, God, had we done the right thing by trying so hard to have another child?

I remember hugging my husband and my daughter. 

I remember the anger. The tears. The worry. 

Fifteen years later, I remember all of it. 

I remember that we are stronger for surviving it. 

I remember that we did do the right thing by bringing a bright, funny child into the world who changes this planet just by being on it. 

I remember those who were lost, especially my source at CantorFitz. He was a funny, witty man who could have become a good politician. We're the lesser for those lost. 

We are the less for our collective bunkering. The bollards that went up around the Dirksen Plaza. The pervasive sense of fear that permeated the air.

Fifteen years ago, life changed.

We can, and should, remember.

We can, and should, grow older and wiser from lessons learned.

We can, and should, push back fear and embrace the beauty of a glorious fall morning. 

I remember. Don't forget.