September 11, 2001 was my twenty-third day of motherhood. My dear friend called me early. I didn’t know why; I didn’t let her tell me because the baby’s diaper was a mess and I told her I’d call her back. She was too polite to interject. I moved to the other room and sat up on my bed and fed my tiny child and heard my husband make a strange sound from the other room. I had a theory about why: mortgage rates must have gone down again. We were young and renting a house and daydreaming about our own address, the long future, the fun. When he told me a plane ran into the WTC I thought it was a little Cessna and the pilot made a mistake and nicked the building. Like all of us, I can still feel how the disbelief pervaded my life in that hour, that day when we held our baby nonstop. The surreal experience lingered, continuing throughout that season and beyond. We were young. This was the world?
The post 9/11 world is now about as old as our baby. It is 13 and in eighth grade. It has outgrown many things. It can now refer to “When I was little” without eliciting a chuckle. There are no more babysitters. In fact now this world is old enough to itself do a little babysitting, but it still can’t drive. It is still young, with still much to do, still wide-eyed. Just as my child has undergone tremendous changes in her life, so too the world that accompanies her. I look at this photo from that memorable season, when my mom was well, before she lost a third of her body weight, and the simplicity of this scene makes me glad, even stained as it must forever be with the reality of what happened then. It was more than geopolitics. It was more than an issue. It was a collective violating of our simplest order.
It was, and still is, a difficult world. There are tolls. There is rising; there are falls. When the towers literally fell, I think what felt so abjectly over-full was the denial of humanity, both of our country as victim, but also the self-inflicted denial of those who became so lost that they would carry out such an act.
Life continues; the baby grows. This new world is a year away from starting high school. It is mastering algebra. It writes humor-laced letters to friends and worries about stains on favorite jeans and gets suddenly a shy grin with talk of boys. We are all still just figuring this out. It was, and still is, a deep and failing and beautiful human world.