By Lucinda Bunn
How Could Anyone Forget
I was sure I was overreacting when I called the preschool.vI felt a maternal need to keep my daughter close and safe. “I’m keeping Abby home with me.” I said. Miss Mickie answered the phone. “My son works at the Pentagon.” She said, with a panic in her voice that matched the one I had in my entire being. Then, I knew it was serious.
Every morning religiously, I watched the Today Show before taking Abby to preschool. She was 4. But on THIS day, 22 years ago, that changed. I sat in shock as I watched Matt Lauer and Katie Couric with the same shock, as they tried to unravel what was happening. Like many others, I watched the second plane hit the tower live. Into the Today Show broadcast, the finance reporter who covered Wall Street stumbled into the studio covered in ash and dust. He was in shock, as his baffled words showed. It was like a bad sci fi movie. Only scarier. Because it was real.
Life got different at our little suburban house in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And stayed that way for a solid week. People got personal with their powerlessness as they put all the flags they had out in their yards. You could not buy an American flag for a while.
We lived in the landing pattern for Tulsa International Airport. A week of no commercial flights left an eerie silence where the whistling sound of landing gears coming down used to be the norm. “Did you see that?” My exclaim in the grocery store parking lot. I felt desperate to connect with someone. Another shopper looked at me and yelled back, “Yes.” It was a stealth bomber. Doing what stealths do. Disappearing into thin air, right before our eyes. Normal, as we knew it, was no more.
I was afraid to turn away from the news and I immersed myself in it. Unlike most preschoolers, Abby, being an old soul, was not oblivious. She came home from preschool one day and said, “those men hit those buildings with their planes because they didn’t have Jesus in their hearts.”
My family started in New York. My parents worked in television and met and married, starting our family in New York. I was born in New Rochelle. My family lived in Larchmont, NY, from which our dad commuted by train to the big apple for work. My sister once worked in the World Trade Center. My brother had called NYC home and spent much of his time at ground zero, hanging out with the first responders over beers and I would imagine, tears.
Shit got real when my brother took an assignment to go to Afghanistan to cover the war as a journalist. He flew over with the 101st Airborne and was embedded there. We had not spoken in years, so I busted out my olive branch in the form of bow ties that my mother and I shopped for to send him before he left for his assignment. He liked to wear one on camera when he covered stories. I felt all the miles and lost time between us. And am glad he eventually came home.
About six months later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The rate of growth of the tumor, coupled with the size at discovery was all I needed to confirm my intuition. The week following September 11th, so full of fear for me, sprouted a tumor that saw an opening there.
There is a saying that with crisis there is opportunity and as is often the way when catastrophe strikes, it levels the playing field. It doesn’t matter what color you are, what you have in the bank, who you love, where you live or how you worship, we are all people who just need to be connected to and loved by one another. To heal together.
Today, after 22 years, my daughter Abby is 26. My big brother Jimmy is still in my life. And fear, while it still wants to have its way with me, doesn’t get too far because I want to be here for another 22 years. And for the purposes of this story, I hope no one EVER forgets 911.