Remembering Nine Years Ago

by Lisa Douglas

Seeing them raise the flag, then lower it to half-mast this morning felt like a sucker-punch to the gut. It winded me. I held back hot tears tucked behind my eyes as my lip quivered and my knees shook beneath me. But this was not the usual, my child is playing soccer for the first time, and it’s her first ever opening ceremony tears of a proud mother. This was the, how the hell can we celebrate youth sports today, of all days, don’t you know what to day is? tears from a former New Yorker.

I just wanted to sit and weep and hold my children close.

Instead, we roasted to a crisp under an unusually hot late summer sun, sweat pouring out of me, making up for the tears I held back, because those tears came pouring out of every pore I have, and my tears were shed all over my clothing and into the grass beneath me as I reluctantly watched three back-to-back soccer games this morning.

I promised I would never forget.

The sky was as blue as I’d ever seen it today, clouds like marshmallow, much like that morning as I crossed the Hudson Bridge in NY. I was in a toll booth paying my toll when the first plane hit.

“Defense!” I heard other parents calling out, getting lost in the excitement of their children’s games today.

I felt like I was a parental shell of myself – there and present, but not emotionally there. How could I be? I watched as my husband got riled up while kids flailed dangly limbs in the heat. I could do nothing but sit and sweat and stifle my emotions silently while reaching out to him, my hand on his drenched shoulder, so grateful to have him home, stateside, here. Safe.

My mother told me when I walked into her home that morning, seeing it in the distance on the small TV set behind her. Her eyes were swollen and heavy. I could feel the pain emanating from her, even though I didn’t understand. She could have said it in a foreign language, and my reaction still would have been the same. Shock. I sat on a preschool table, fixated on the television, witnessing the worst thing I’ve ever seen unfold before my eyes on national television.

“Go, go, go!” Families called out to their children.

Yet “Stop, stop, stop,” was all I really heard and wanted to happen.

Stop pretending it didn’t happen, people. Stop the terrorists from doing this again. Stop the needless deaths. Stop dressing my husband and his friends in their military-best to sending them to war overseas to not bring them all home safe. Stop all of it!

Instead, I just cradled each of my heat-stricken children today, whispering much love into their sweaty ears, clutching onto their innocence, silently praying they never have to feel the depths of pain like this ever in their lifetimes.

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