Ali was watching “Barney”.
We used to give her empty coffee cans and let her drum on them, but on this morning she had flipped one of them over and was using it as a stool just a few feet from the television. She had her hands on her knees and her head was tilted backward as she stared at the screen.
I was preparing to leave so the two of us could go to story-time at the library. It was the only place where I could watch her socialize and consistently see her be the last in line when they handed out a craft after the story. She never pushed or stepped in front of anyone. She would always turn and look at me and I would wave my hand forward and mouth, “Go! Get up there!”, but she never would.
I moved past her and her coffee-can chair to an open window and noted her frozen, I’ve-been-sucked-into-Barney state. I heard the sound of branches being chipped up by a tree service down the block. I heard dogs barking and cars driving by. After I shut the window and locked it, the phone rang. Ali didn’t blink an eye.
My husband didn’t waste time with a greeting, “Hey, do you have the TV on?”
“Two planes hit the World Trade Center. Turn on CNN.”
I grabbed the remote and sat on the corner of the coffee table. As I changed the channel. I glanced down to notice a death-glare from my three year old.
“Wow”, I said. “That looks like an awful freak accident.”
“I don’t think it’s an accident.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t think anyone knows what’s going on.”
“Well, we’re on our way to story-time so I’ll throw a tape in the VCR and watch it when I get home and let you know what I find out.”
I unwrapped a new tape, inserted it, hit record and we made our way to the library.
Ali and I found an empty space on the floor where we could peacefully settle in for the duration, but after ten minutes, story-time was abruptly canceled when an employee slipped the reader a note. It was on a small, yellow piece of paper and as she read it silently, I wished I could see through to the other side.
The woman reading calmly pulled off her glasses and said, “We’re going to stop here. You should all go home.”
Ten minutes later I was, again, in my living room. I stood in front of the television and hit the power button, I saw the second tower fall. I fell at the same time as it did.
I remember the pain as I crashed to my knees and cried out. I remember holding my daughter in my arms and reassuring her despite my sadness. I remember being very scared.
I sat in front of the television that entire day. I watched the towers fall over and over.
As the afternoon sun began to set, I went to the window and lifted it. There were no dogs barking, no cars driving past…not even the faint hum of an air conditioner. Just silence.
Then I flipped over Ali’s coffee can and turned on Barney.