17 minutes

So often on the morning of 9/11, I  I find myself thinking about the first 17 minutes. More than the horror and the fear and the utter helplessness and hopelessness of the day as a whole, those first 17 minutes are jumping out at me and reminding me what life used to be like.

At the time, we didn’t know they were the first 17 minutes. At the time, they were just minutes after something surprising had happened; something we all learned quickly we didn’t really understand. At the time, there was confusion, a sadness and even a little humor. Toward the end, the humor was fading and something darker was taking its place, and those 17 minutes marked the last of a particular kind of innocence.

I remember my first reaction to the plane hitting Tower 1. I stood up to talk to one of my cubicle neighbors who was a private pilot. Stagg had just gotten his own private pilot’s license, so we had talked about flying and planes quite a bit. We looked at each other, horrified for a moment, the shook our heads and laughed a little. “Silly private pilots, gotta keep your eyes on the horizon.” It took a moment to consider that someone, anyone, could have been hurt with a small plane hitting a big building.

It took long enough to figure out this wasn’t a small plane that by the time we knew, it was hard to get more information from the internet. And as we learned this was not a little 2 or 4 seater, but a full-sized commercial jet, it stopped being funny and started being horrible. Still, those minutes were more confusing than anything else. Was the pilot drunk? Did he (or she) have a heart attack and the co-pilot didn’t notice?  Did the auto-pilot fail? How could this possibly happen?

I remember being sad, and confused and horrified that something so unthinkable could have happened. It was flabbergasting to consider that an actual plane could have somehow hit such a giant landmark. How could anyone not see the Twin Towers? While I know the thought that it could have been intentional crossed my mind, it was quickly dismissed. Things like that simply did not happen in real life– only in far-fetched movie plots.

I have noticed, during the replays of news broadcasts from that morning, that I was not alone in my assumption of innocence. In those first minutes, broadcasters sound like they did not truly consider that this could have been intentional. The idea was put forth, but sounded like some bizarre conspiracy theory, out of sync with what we all knew to be true and right. Surely, there was an explanation that would make sense.

In those first 17 minutes, it was almost entirely unthinkable that the horrible accident of a plane hitting the Twin Towers was anything other than an accident. That it was anything other than a simple tragedy that would eventually become a footnote in the history of New York, like the Hindenburg or the Coconut Grove fire. Horrible, yes. Devastating, certainly. But isolated. Something that would become an anecdote over cocktails for a certain group of New Yorkers, “hey, you remember that plane that his the towers? Yeah, my new office is on that floor!”

During those 17 minutes, it all seemed fixable. The tower was strong, and would recover. The people inside would get out and find new office space. The sun would continue to shine and all would be well once again.

And then, the 17 minutes were up.

Back to School

This is the last week of the girls’ summer vacation.  In July. Don’t even get me started.

This year is 9th and 7th. Two different schools, two different school districts, two different break schedules.  Its going to be interesting.

I’m trying to do some things differently this year.

  1. I’m not stressing about getting them back to the “school time” schedule.  Its summer, and school mornings are never going to be easy at the beginning of the year.  Both girls are stressing in their own ways, so letting them burn off their energy and stress while running around outside and sleeping in a little later isn’t going to bother me this year.  The excitement of the first couple days of school will work in their (and my) favor next week.  It helps that my memories of trying to get them back on the school time schedule are filled with frustration, whining, complaining and more frustration.  And never really seemed to help much.
  2. *Most* of the school supplies are coming out of our existing stash.  It finally occurred to me that there is not a 7th grade stash of colored pencils where everyone takes what they need like in kindergarten.  The ones I supply are for my kid to use.  And she can use the ones she’s already broken in.  It is a bonus that she decided that instead of using binders, she wants an accordion file, and I just happened to clean out the one I used for my masters thesis.  Score on re-using a 17 year old office supply!
  3. I am no longer monitoring screen time.  For the next couple days, I choose not to fight that fight (too much).  When school starts, there is not that much time for TV watching (except for K on the bus to school), so… whatevs.
  4. I am not providing a running countdown of how much time they have left and badgering them about how they feel about it.  I don’t know why I’ve done this in the past.  It was annoying, and I knew it at the time.  I’m making an effort not to bug them this year, and they seem to appreciate it.  Although I can’t completely not mention the transition, I try to keep it to questions like, “is there anything special you want for breakfast  that day/week?”
  5. I’m thinking more about how to make the morning routine a little easier on all of us.  This year is going to be interesting, and I want to help them be as autonomous as possible while making sure that everything that needs to happen in the morning actually happens.  Like, on time.  And it is finally dawning on me that this requires more than a wish and a prayer.  I’m still trying to figure out exactly what to do, but I’m working on it.

One of the strangest things about this year is that the girls will go back to school on different days.  That hasn’t happened in 7 years.  Only time will tell if that helps with the feeling of a nice gradual transition or just an extended period of absolute craziness.

In Carpool

In the school carpool line: Called M back to the car to remind her of something. MAJOR eye roll. She *knows* that already.

So… I rolled along side her with the window down, suggested that since we were moving at the same speed, we could talk (more) about sex. HORROR and screams and a little laughter as she told me she hates me. I told her I cracked myself up. She told me I am the WORST and hustled her laughing self into school.

I may be the worst. She may hate me. But I can still make her laugh.