It’s not even here yet and I’m sick of all of it, guilty that I’m feeling sick of all of it, yet obsessively reading the retrospectives and everybody’s accounts of where they were and what happened to them and how they felt … yet I too am remembering that day.
After I retired from my organizational change consulting business (that, unfortunately, didn’t really change any organizations), in the process of searching for my new place in the world I discovered Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat and study center in the next town over. I’d been going there for over a year, taking classes and, every weekday morning at 8:30, going to Meeting for Worship. When I got there, that sparkling September morning, the room was dark, empty. No one was there, no one arrived.
There was no Meeting for Worship that day – all the staff was on a retreat.
I went back home, and at around 10 of 9 Chip called. A plane had flown into one of the World Trade Towers.
I never went back to Pendle Hill. God, if there was such a thing, was no longer there for me.
It was only after I’d told this dramatic story for a few years that I realized it wasn’t true. It all happened, but on different days. I’m not even sure of the sequence anymore.
This much I know is true: Benjamin, who was living here at the time, and I watched the smoke and the flames and wondered why there weren’t any helicopters to rescue the people on the roof, until the towers fell. And then we realized there hadn’t been any people on the roof – they couldn’t get to the roof. I told him everything would be different from then on; that we were going to go to war. His generation had never known war.
Phoebe and her then-boyfriend, who had broken up at the beginning of that first year of med school, came here and held hands on the couch.
We had a comfort-meal dinner: meat loaf, potatoes, peas.
And then there was the Anthrax and the plane crash on Long Island and two wars and Bush and more Bush and yes, everything was different.
All these memories take us back to the time Before. On September 10, 2001, America was at peace, we did not torture, and comfort could still be found at Pendle Hill.