Jim and I lived in Ellsworth, Maine on September 11, 2001. Jim was on the road downeast of Ellsworth. I was in the Ellsworth Career Center. I was talking with Jean who was, then, the director of services for blind children when the line went silent. It didn’t go dead – Jean just abruptly stopped speaking. I waited.
“Oh no . . . oh my God,” Jean muttered.
“What? What is it Jean?” I waited. Eventually Jean spoke.
“A plane has flown into one of the World Trade Center towers.” As I tried to absorb this news Jean spoke again and this time she sounded a little panicked. “A second plane… This is unbelievable – a second plane has hit the other tower.” Then I heard Jean put the phone down and yell for Mary. I didn’t know who Mary was but I waited some more.
When Jean picked the phone back up she told me that Mary’s husband worked in one of the Trade Center towers and she needed to hang up and help her. Placing the phone back on the hook I rested my elbows on the desk and tried to figure out what to do next. I needed Jim. I had been in this same situation just six weeks ago but Jim had been in the office then. It had been the Thursday afternoon when Mama called and simply said, “Come.” That’s all she had to say. I knew Daddy was dying.
Checking the time on my computer I realized Jim would be back in the office any minute now. I took a deep breath and tried to relax. Then I tried to get an idea of what was happening in New York on the Internet. But pages wouldn’t load. Kathy had a radio though so I went to her desk so I could listen to the news. About five minutes later Jim walked around the corner. “Did you hear?”
“Yes, come in my office.” So I followed Jim to his office and took the visitor’s chair.
“This is bad,” he began. No work was done that day. Everyone was huddled around radios, wandering around the office, talking quietly in small groups. Eventually Jim suggested we go to lunch.
“Look, we’ve got these checks I was going to deposit but I think we should cash them instead.” Thinking of the implications of that simple statement I agreed. After cashing the checks we picked up a couple of sandwiches and drove down to the town pier. Jim pulled over, rolled down the windows, and pushed back his seat. We sat there quietly eating lunch, listening to the water, and not saying very much.
That evening was the first rehearsal of the Acadia Choral Society. I’m not even sure what we sang that semester but I remember calling Shirley and Geoff to see what I should do. Shirley’s line was busy the first few times I called but when I got through she told me they had decided to go ahead with rehearsal. Geoff assured me he’d pick me up at the usual time.
Really, it was just what we all needed. I’m not even sure what we worked on but the “Pax Hominibus” comes to mind. That night sleep did eventually come.