11 September 2009

Eight years ago today

I had just moved to Ottawa, Canada's capital to start teachers' college. I was pretty excited because it was the first thing that I have ever done that felt right. The sky was a beautiful shade of blue and the temperature was just perfect. I remember thinking that I was so happy to be home.

My decision to return to Canada from France seemed to be a very easy one, especially since I was moving towards a career that I felt called to. I've mentioned before how although I loved my life in Paris, it just never felt like something that was permanent. It was also a great compromise to move to Ottawa since I could speak French whenever I wanted and my university was bilingual.

I was with some new friends I had met from my section (the teacher candidates were divided into smaller groups and part of my section had all of the teachers that were studying to be French teachers in particular) when one of the girls got a phone call from her boyfriend. He told her that one of the World Trade Centre towers was hit by a plane. She immediately told him that it was an awful joke and she hung up on him. We were between classes and trying to figure out a place to go for lunch. A's boyfriend called her back and told her that we had to find a television.

A had previously lived on campus so she called one of her old roomies to see if we could come over and watch TV. All of us sat on the couches completed agog. I remember being hungry, but not being able to eat the lunch I had packed. All of us oscillated between horror and tears and when it was time to go back to class we were shell shocked.

Lucky for us our seminar leader was really cool and we talked about what had just happened. After our class we heard rumours that there was a bomb scare on Parliament Hill and that students were being told to go home. Apparently a "suspicious" package was found and the bomb squad was investigating. I didn't want to home since I was living alone. I didn't have my cable installed or my phone line.

When I finally made it home I kept the radio on the entire night. I was very worried because one of my oldest friends was living in New Jersey and I knew that she did quite a bit of business in New York. I called her to make sure that she was okay. She was pretty shaken up. Her company had lost quite a few clients that worked at the WTC, but they weren't sure how many at that point.

The one phone call that sticks in my memory was a call to my dad. I was used to living alone and being independent. I had lived on another continent for heaven's sake! Despite it all, I am still a daddy's girl at heart. I told him that I was scared and I also told him about the bomb scare on the Hill. I had never felt so unsafe in my entire life. And this is what my dad told me:

"Nothing is going to happen to you. We live in Canada, we are safe. You can go to sleep now."

And I did.

I know that my dad had no idea if what he was saying was 100% true, but he knew what his little girl needed to hear. I listened to him. I went to sleep and every time I woke up that night I thought about what he had sad to me.

I remember walking around in a bit of a fog. Digesting the news was difficult. I am still so glad that I didn't have a television. I would've spent the entire night transfixed if I had cable. The radio reports were one thing and the images that I had seen earlier in the day were enough.

On September 12th I went to mass at the parish that I attended and I had never seen the church so full. It was a very popular parish in a hip part of town and the pastor was an amazing preacher. The folk choir did the music and I remember just singing my heart out and crying. I have gone to mass many times in my life to find comfort, but for personal things. It was the first time that I turned to the church to make sense of the world.

It had taken 26 years to make me realize that true evil existed in the world. I know that up to that point I was pretty idealistic and naive about how things worked.

I was looking around at my adorable class today and I thought, "These kids are never going to know a world without 9/11." And it made me really sad. Even when little Ralph was playing S.tar W.ars (with a light saber made out of some linking cubes that I use for math!) I couldn't shake the sadness. The kids that I'm teaching were born in 2003, two years after the planes crashed. They will never see the majestic buildings, they will never go through airport security without having to take their shoes off and having their belongings completely searched. There will always be that element of fear every time they fly.

Eight years ago today our world changed. I changed. And it makes me so absolutely sad that we had to.


  1. I just can't believe that it was eight years ago. It feels like so much more recently. It is still so acute.

  2. Thanks for the story of where you were. I can't believe that it was 8 years ago. See my comment on Sew's blog on where I was, it was interesting to say the least.

    Can I adopt Ralph? I was obsessed with Star Wars as a kid, of course, I wanted to be Pricess Leah.

  3. i had already been married for 8 months then, but i called my dad that night too... and i remember him saying i was safe, and pilots were flying over to protect us (he was a fighter pilot for 25 years)...

    even when we are grown up we still need to hear we are safe from our dads.

    thanks for sharing.

  4. I can't help but wonder if your students are better off for not having to have lived through that kind of evil and devastation. They will only live in the after, but at least they won't have been exposed to the horror.

  5. that was such a life altering day. I can still remember where I was and how I found out and more importantly how scared and impotent I felt.

  6. I heard your in the hospital...we're PRAYING for you!!!

    Much love and prayers,

  7. I had the same reaction when a friend called and said turn on the radio. I told him, yeah, right, and there are dinosaurs attacking the Hollywood sign.

    That day seemed to have marked a change in so many lives.

    I'm glad Canada is safe. May it remain so (says a Yankee who loves our northern neighbor).

  8. Just wanted to let you know that Sew has been updating everyone on how you're doing, and that we're all praying for you.

    I hope you're home and feeling better soon!