Traumatic events in our lives tend to freeze-frame the moments in our memories. And usually these moments aren’t reshaped or softened as so many of our memories seem to be. They’re just there in all their jagged pain. The year 1963 held three such moments for me, all involving the passing of people I loved and admired. I’d known death before, but only from a philosophical distance, the people not particularly close to me.
That changed when I got a phone call from my brother, telling me that my father had died in Florida, where he and my mother had lived in a trailer park near the ocean. I was called to the office from my class and I remember stumbling through the day, teaching woodenly, thinking all the while that I held a secret that none of my students could begin to guess. My father was dead. My father was dead. I whispered the news to Rosalie when I saw her in the boiler room where all the teachers gathered to steal a cigarette between classes. I wept, but only much later, after we had gone home.
In the fall, after we had gone to Greeley where I began working on a masters degree, I got the news that Blanche, my brother’s wife, and their youngest son had been killed in a small plane crash. Blanche, ten years my senior, had been a sister/mother to me. I remember the hazy, sunlit afternoon on campus, and the dullness of my spirit. And it will always be linked to the news of JFK’s assassination on November 22. I shared my grief and shock with the nation.
And now, a week from the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attack in New York, we all look back at the moment when we heard the news of the Twin Towers dropping. It was a Tuesday and I was working the women’s league at the golf course. One of the ladies came in to announce in a loud voice what had happened, and I said, “That f---ing Bin Laden!”
Now we’re all looking back on that day when so many died so horrifically, so needlessly. Many of you may have seen this oddity regarding that day, but it’s worth repeating here. Type Q33NY, the designation of one of the planes that hit the towers, then enlarge it to 24 point, then switch the font to Wingdings. Here’s what comes up: