Fourteen years ago today

I dreaded going to work that day.

Not because I had any hint of the sadness, desperation and fear the day held.

Because I had to make a phone call.

I was so new. Only three months a graduate, two months a reporter, one month a wife.

I wasn't ready for that day's assignment. 

When I got to work, I had to go into the little conference room in the back of the newsroom. The one that just barely fit a table and a phone.

And I had to call a family in mourning.

 

The day before, their small son died at the fair, when something went wrong with the ride he was on. His mother was beside him when it happened.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it. A beautiful, sunshiny day at the fair. Did he have cotton candy beforehand? Did he pet the baby lambs and bunnies earlier? Was it quick?

Everything in me knew calling the family was wrong, knew I was adding to their unimaginable pain. But then again, older reporters assured me, some families welcomed the call, found comfort in knowing their loved one’s story would be printed forever, shared with the world.

 

I had to make the phone call, go back in that little room.

I was so new, though. Over the phone, my voice sounded even younger. I didn’t know the right script for this kind of phone call.

I’d wait until ten o’clock. I told myself this was so I wouldn’t wake them, but part of me knew they’d never be fully awake again.

 

And then the tower was hit.

We--all of us in the newsroom--gathered around the small television at the day editor’s desk, watching to see if it was as bad as we feared.

And then, right as we watched, the second tower was hit.

 

I never went into that room. I never made that call.

 

The rest of the day, of the week, of the month, of the year were a blur.

I was sent to train stations, bus depots, planned parenthood offices, schools, nuclear power plants, government offices, any place that could possibly trigger hate.

I spoke with survivors. I made other phone calls—to victims’ families—right from my cubicle in the middle of the newsroom. I talked with a Pearl Harbor veteran and felt sick as he cried. I cried when I saw the flags flying from every house in my little city.

 I didn’t feel new anymore.

 

I never made that phone call I dreaded. For months, as I tried to fall asleep next to my husband, my ears rang with the screams and sirens I had heard over and over on the television. But behind my closed eyelids, I saw only that little boy’s perfect, smiling face.

 

I think about that family every day.

 

I wonder if, as the towers fell, they were the only ones who didn’t gasp. If they were the only ones not shocked. Not even surprised. I wonder if they didn’t even blink as the world shuddered and changed.  

 

For them, the world aged so much so suddenly the day before.