Missing the way it was before

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 30, 2002

I miss the Sept. 10 world

As I sit down to write, the glow of my computer screen is the only light in the room. From across the hall, I hear the sound of my daughter playing one of her computer games. The faint buzz of my husband's razor echoes from the other end of the house.

It is Tuesday night, the eve of Sept. 11, 2002, and life is moving along in proper order.

Tonight as I listen to the sounds around me, I search my memory trying to find the same night last year. I recall in detail the events of my life on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, but what was I doing at this time on Sept. 10? I doubt it was too different from tonight's routine.

I probably helped my daughter with her bath, maybe we worked on homework. I can't remember if I watched television. Did I read before turning in for the night?

A clear picture of that evening is nowhere in my mind. At my house, it was simply a night before another day. Life that night held no surprises as far as I knew.

I, like most people in this country, went to sleep expecting to wake to a usual day of doing normal things.

On television tonight there was story after story of those who woke for the last time on Sept. 11, 2001. Their faces filled the screen and such sadness swept over me. Surely, their families replay the night before that morning over and over, reliving final shared moments, trying to recall words that became their good-byes.

My daughter reaches the end of her game, and I hear her footsteps in the hall. She is getting ready to call it a day. Her bed creaks as she settles down to sleep.

I stop writing long enough to go through our tucking-in ritual.

"Sleep tight," I say.

"Don't let the bedbugs bite," she replies.

I kiss her five times on the forehead like I do every night.

Back at the computer, I hear her breathing slow to a steady rhythm. Now the house is quiet, peaceful.

It was peaceful at this time a year ago, wasn't it?

I glance at the clock. In only a few hours, it will be Sept. 11, this time last year that meant nothing special. Now it is the date generations will remember and study as part of history.

As I sit here on the eve of this anniversary, I wonder what tomorrow will be like. My family and I will be out of town, but I'll think about where I was one year ago. I will remember the shock and horror I felt as I watched unimaginable images on television.

It happened, it wasn't a dream; and I have now lived a year in the aftershock of a tragedy that until a bright autumn morning seemed an impossible thing.

I am still here, still experiencing the possibilities of each sunrise, but I am not the same as I was the night before September 11, 2001; none of us are the same.

When this column appears in print, it will be the day after Sept. 11, and as I did last year, I will go about doing the routine things that are part of living.

That is what we will all do, what we must do. Still, on this Tuesday night, in the silent darkness, I can't help but long for that place I lived one year ago tonight before hatred piloted planes into buildings and burned September 11 into our collective consciousness.