It’s hard to believe it’s been nine years since the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on 9/11/2001. I was a sophomore in college at the time. I went to a Christian college that held chapel on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. So it was in chapel that I heard the news that the Twin Towers and the Pentagon had been hit.
Uncertainly, I went to class afterward and the professor said we could stay and watch the news there in the classroom or leave. As soon as I saw the destruction at the Pentagon on the news, I left the classroom with a friend. I had a relative who worked at the Pentagon and as soon as I reached the dorm, I started a series of frantic phone calls. Eventually through the family grapevine, I found out he was okay.
The next day, classes were held as scheduled. In moments between, I went to the library computers and read eyewitness accounts about the attacks and looked at photos of the aftermath. On that day, I had various extracurricular obligations, including one for a nursing home outreach team for which I had been asked to be a leader. The meeting was in the evening, I think around 9pm. As the responsibilities were described, I started feeling overwhelmed and was embarrassed to find myself near tears. The others kindly asked how they could help me feel less overwhelmed. “I don’t know,” I replied. I tried to articulate my feeling but fell short. Finally, I fell back on: “I’m sorry, it’s been a long day.”
Walking back to my dorm after the meeting, still upset, I tried to fix my mind on something calming and suddenly the phrase of a poem came to mind. The poem was “Evening at a Country Inn” by Jane Kenyon, which I had copied down into a notebook back when I was in high school. The poem gets at how you can be engaged in normal, even serene activities, and yet your mind can be dwelling on something else entirely. The last line of the poem is the one that came to my mind.
“Evening at a Country Inn”
by Jane Kenyon
From here I see a single red cloud
impaled on the Town Hall weather vane.
Now the horses are back in their stalls,
and the dogs are nowhere in sight
that made them run and buck
in the brittle morning light.
You laughed only once all day –
when the cat ate cucumbers
in Chekhov’s story. . . and now you smoke
and pace the long hallway downstairs.
The cook is roasting meat for the evening meal,
and the smell rises to all the rooms.
Red-faced skiers stamp past you
on their way in; their hunger is Homeric.
I know you are thinking of the accident –
of picking the slivered glass from his hair.
Just now a truck loaded with hay
stopped at the village store to get gas.
I wish you would look at the hay –
the beautiful sane and solid bales of hay.