September 11th…I wanted to do something, and this is what it ended up being. It is set many years in the future, but what year exactly is unimportant…please enjoy.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Dedication: To all those affect by the September 11th attacks, and to everyone who still remembers.
Lucy looked down at the piece of paper in front of her. It was blank. It was not supposed to be blank. It was supposed to be an essay for her freshman lit class about what September 11th meant to her. Finally she dropped her pen on the breakroom conference table, which had served as her desk for years. Then she stood up and walked down the hall to Danny's office. Peeking through the blinds she made sure he was alone. Then she opened the door and poked her head in.
Danny looked up. "Hey kiddo," he greeted her, "What's up?"
"Have you got a second?" she asked stepping inside.
"For you I've got ten," Danny told her with a wink. It was a familiar line in their family that he had picked up years before from either Mac or Aiden.
"Can you explain something to me?" she asked perching on the arm of one of the chairs in front of Danny's desk.
"I can try,' he offered. He had learned over the years not to agree to vague requests from either his wife or his daughter.
"9/11," Lucy said, looking at her father.
Danny looked back, slightly surprised. "Well," he began, "A terrorist organization hijacked four planes and used them to stage an attack on US soil. Two planes took off from Boston and were flown into—" He stopped because Lucy was shaking her head.
"No," she said, "I mean yes, that's all true, but I can get that from the videos we watch in school. I want to know what makes it different."
"Different?" Danny asked his daughter curiously.
"Yeah," she said, "Different. The way they teach it in school it sounds just like Pearl Harbor: attack on American soil, numerous deaths, the start of a war. But you, mom, and Uncle Don, and Aunt Jamie...it's different for you."
Danny closed his eyes for a moment and nodded. He understood now what his daughter was asking, and it startled him because it seemed so strange that she could not remember a day that was forever burned into his brain. "Do you see that skyline?" he asked turning to point out the window behind him.
"Yeah," Lucy said looking at the sun shining on the buildings outside.
"I want you to close your eyes," he told her, "now imagine that same skyline. One moment it looks like that: shining, sparkling in the sunlight. The next moment it seems like someone blocked out the sun. Grey smoke fills the air, and you don't know where it's coming from. The radio on the desk begins issuing frantic messages; nobody knows what's going on. There's chaos everywhere."
"Isn't there some protocol for a terrorist attack?" Lucy asked, her eyes still closed.
"Sure," Danny agreed, "Now there is, but at the time the first plane hit, we didn't even know it was a terrorist attack. We didn't know that until the second plane hit."
"So what did you do?" she asked him.
Danny swallowed. He wished he could tell his daughter that he had been a hero, that he had pulled someone from the rubble of the collapsed, but he had no such heroic story. "Aiden and I went down to the World Trade Center trying to find something we could do to help. We ended up helping shepherd people away from the buildings. I remember one woman running up to us sobbing because she had just dropped her youngest son off at his job at the Windows on the World restaurant. It was his first day, and he had been so proud."
He stopped talking. He could still see the woman's face contorted with pain and disbelief, and he could see the tears snaking their way down her cheeks. Even after all these years he felt the lump building in his throat. He could remember Aiden's face too. She had pulled the woman into an embrace to prevent her from collapsing, and as the woman sobbed into Aiden's shoulder, Danny had met his partner's gaze.
He wished now that he could recreate what he had seen in her eyes in that moment because that look summed up everything: fear, pain, confusion, helplessness, anger, guilt, and the hundred other emotions that threatened to overwhelm him, that threatened to overwhelm all of them. If he could show Lucy that he knew she would understand. At the same time, he was glad that she would never see it because that look still haunted him to this day.
"Do you remember Uncle Mac?" Danny asked her, realizing he had been silent for too long.
"Of course," Lucy said, nodding her head.
"Do you remember every seeing him cry?" he asked.
"No," Lucy said shaking her head, "He was always so tough and stoic about everything."
"I only ever saw him cry once," Danny told his daughter. "Just before Aiden and I left for ground zero, Mac got a phone call from his wife."
"Uncle Mac was married?" she asked.
"Yeah," Danny said with a sad nod, "Her name was Claire, and they were as in love with each other as I've ever seen two people."
"What did she say?" Lucy asked.
Danny swallowed hard, the lump in his throat was getting bigger. "She called to say goodbye," he told her, "She worked in the World Trade Center and couldn't get out, but she wanted to tell Mac she loved him one last time." He paused again. "He stayed on the phone with her until the tower collapsed, and then he dropped the phone to the floor and just began to cry. Stella tried to comfort him, but it was ten years before took his wedding band off."
Lucy was beginning to understand now but not just because of what her father was saying. She could see in his eye how much the memories still hurt him, even after all these years. He had been there. He had seen it. That was what made it so different for him.
"What about mom?" she asked suddenly, "She still lived in Montana."
"It doesn't matter," Danny told her, "September 11th wasn't about New York or Virginia or Pennsylvania. It was an attack on the United States, on all of us. And what makes 9/11 different for me and for your mother and for everyone else. Is that it's not something we read about in history books. It is something we lived through. A single day that changed the world forever."
"I think I understand," Lucy said a little hesitantly.
Danny sighed. "I think you understand as much as you possibly could without living through something like it, and for that reason I pray to God you never fully understand."
Please review and tell me what you thought. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this one…but I think it says what it needs to.