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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September Blue.

At 9:48 he turns off the TV, abandoning Dinosaur Train to ask to go outside. Before he runs from the living room to the back door, he grabs the cracked plastic fire helmet we picked up at a weekend festival, only three days old and already a crush away from falling completely apart. Tova follows in her straw fedora, and I reluctantly bring up the rear, lukewarm coffee and phone in hand.

He had preschool testing this week, so he only went yesterday and will be home the rest of the week. This cranks my anxiety up, just a notch. But I know the fresh air will do all of us good, and it's another gorgeous nearly-fall day, so why not.

We pour into the backyard, requests for balls and chalk break the idyllic quiet of the midmorning. I retrieve their outside toys, even setting up the slightly broken play tent for them to trounce around. I scan my TweetDeck feed, answering replies and direct messages as they scamper about, and I'm glad that the neighbor children aren't out just yet for the day. They've been more problematic as of late -- coming into our yard while we're not out, taking things off of our front porch without asking and then lying when I catch them. I'm not in the mood to parent someone else's children today.

I find myself struggling with the comments and images popping up through my Twitter and Instagram, needing no reminder of today's significance in the national memory. I remember it well, that disbelief, that fear, that sadness, and as each year passes it stays with me, morphs into more understanding of the pain and loss and sacrifice that day required eleven years ago, more than my seventeen year old self could grasp at the time.

I suspect it has to do with getting older and becoming a mother, equally.

The repeated phrases from him are not unusual -- he's very into vehicles these days -- and I tune them out until he increases his volume to signal his desire for me to acknowledge his words and repeat them, a tiresome exchange when it happens every thirty seconds he's awake. The sounds are near white noise as well, as we live inside an urban area and near both an Air Force Base and an airport. On any other day, his recognitions and identifying wouldn't faze me, wouldn't cause the bottom to fall out of my stomach and tears to well up in my eyes.

But then the siren jolts me away from my phone and smack into the present and past simultaneously, the distinct wail of a fire engine from the department up the street.

"Firetwuck! It's a firetwuck!" he exclaims with purpose, though from the back yard we can't see it. I nod and agree, yes, bud, it's a firetruck as I mentally shake myself of the eeriness that has crept over me.

He stands still next to the open door of his Cozy Coupe, my old Cozy Coupe, and stares into the west, towards downtown and the direction the firetruck was headed. He does it with a stillness and quiet that is unusual for him and I watch, frozen in equal parts wonder and apprehension. His back is straight and erect, his miniature broad shoulders square and set, his fire helmet in his left hand at his side.

He looks like he's about to salute, or like he's standing as a funeral procession passes, and my breath is caught in my throat.

"Airpweyt, it's a airpweyt!" he says pointing into the clear, near-cloudless sky. I squint into the blue because he still has impeccable eyesight, but I can see nothing save for a fading contrail from an earlier pass. He repeats himself over and over, airpweyt, airpweyt and I barely choke out confirmation as he suddenly stops jumping and pointing, making an exploding sound as he throws himself down in the grass.

He rolls around, then jumps up and starts alternating the phrases firetwuck and airpweyt he runs around the yard and I'm choking back tears now, because I feel like he knows, but there's no way for him to. He's only three and a half. Those towers have never stood in his lifetime, and we don't watch the news at home.

The church a few blocks over begins to ring its bell signalling the turn of the hour but my phone says it's still 9:59. His cracked fire hat lays abandoned in the grass as he keeps falling down and yelling about airplanes and firetrucks and I can't take it, I am overwhelmed by the moment and the morning and I can't see for the tears pouring out of my eyes.

Someday I will have to explain this to them, this horrible scary thing that changed the entire direction of our nation irreparably, but that is still some years off. For now, now all I can do is wipe the wetness from my face and pull myself together, and lay in the still-wet morning grass with my children and look into the bright blue September sky, saying silent prayers of gratitude for everything I have and of peace to those who sacrificed the most, intentionally or not.

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