It was mid-morning; I had an appointment in a neighboring town to fix someone’s computer. I was in my car, wandering in circles in strange neighborhoods.
I would drive some, in the direction of my appointment. Then I would pull over and cry. I would try to buck-up and go on, then repeat my motions of pulling off the road. Dazed and confused, I finally called from a pay phone and cancelled my appointment.
Off in the distance, I spotted an old restaurant and gift shop with a Dutch windmill theme. Part of the building looked like a windmill, or so I remember it. I parked and went in for coffee.
Since I was a customer, I felt I needed to look through their trinkets for sale. I found little porcelain replicas of Dutch wooden shoes that say Holland on the sides.
My grown son was back home working, painting houses with another fellow. In my logical mind, I knew he was alright, and it would be silly to try to call him. It made no sense, but I could not get a sense of equilibrium until I heard his voice on the line and was reassured he was alright. And logic had abandoned me.
It was September 11th, 2001, and nothing made sense. Nothing was the same as it was before. I had seen footage of planes hitting the twin towers earlier that morning. America was under attack, and I was sitting in a coffee shop in another town, not knowing why. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. So, I bought some little china shoes, drove home, and called my son at his work site.
The rest of the week was muddy. Americans felt vulnerable; news stations rambled on; daycare centers were watched over; adults tried to explain the unexplainable to their children. There was a lot of community and collective prayer- memorials aplenty.
Firemen worked tirelessly in the NYC rubble. And “ground zero” became the buzz word. Dignitaries and politicians jockied for place in the service at the National Cathedral. The first couple weeks, we were united as Americans. As time wore on, things seemingly returned to the usual. People resumed familiar patterns and proclivities.
My grandchildren know only stories, news clips, and whatever their schools and parents have laid down about that time. Thankfully, they don’t know the shock, the disbelief, the seeking out others for comfort, the attempt to find reason or meaning in something so meaningless and scary. The sense of being overwhelmed. But maybe they should?
We want to spare them pain and not dwell on it. And it’s something one can’t convey anyway. But, wait; they are now the generation of mass shootings - which we could never ever have imagined as kids but which are commonplace for them. My grandson knows firsthand what a lockdown is.
Google has apparently forgotten the little Dutch coffee shop. The world has turned on its axis and revolved around the sun several times. We no longer need to seek out a pay phone to make that reassuring contact or cancel an appointment.
But we still need to remember whose country this is, and the need to pray for our brothers and sisters. And sometimes, we just have to hear a loved one’s voice, so we know how to find our way back home.