Monday, September 11, 2006

9-11 Socks

On the morning of 9-11, I was in my office at the animal shelter, trying to explain the laws regarding nuisance barking to a woman on the other end of the phone who was upset about the nocturnal vocalizations of the Labrador Retriever next door.

I was listening patiently as she detailed her lack of sleep and how it was affecting her life and her blood pressure, when something else began to compete for my attention.

I usually have the radio news turned on at low volume in my office, and I could hear alarming snippets of talk on National Public Radio: "plane crashed into the World Trade Center" .... "tower on fire" ... and so forth.

Just enough to distract me from the woman's litany of canine complaints.

I wondered what the news item was about. It was far, far too bizarre to register immediately as something that was actually happening. For about half a minute, I suspected that it must be a review of an upcoming Die Hard movie -- a plane crashes into the World Trade Center, a lot of stuff blows up, a bunch of bad guys get shot, and Bruce Willis saves the day, thanks to a ready supply of ammunition and undershirts.

Something like that.

It had to be.

Wasn't it?

My attention vacillated between the woman on the phone and the NPR broadcast, and within a few moments, I began to focus much more closely on the radio than on the woman's complaint.

Wait a minute ... I thought ... that doesn't sound like a movie review ... is this for real...?

Then someone down the hall shouted, "EVERYBODY COME SEE THIS!"

Someone had turned on the TV in the conference room. I heard the cashier cry out, "Oh my God!"

And I realized, this is for real.

I told the lady on the phone to call back later about the barking dog, to turn on her TV, that something terrible had happened ... and I hung up.

I ran into the conference room where everyone had gathered around the TV.

And we watched.

We watched as the second plane flew into the WTC and another plane hit the Pentagon. We watched the reports of a fourth plane crashing into a field.

My brother-in-law works across the street from the Pentagon. I called home and woke up my husband (he was working nights at the time). I told Dave what happened and asked him to try to reach his brother, Jack.

My boss called a meeting in case we were activated for emergency duties. If this was a terrorist attack, they could have other targets all over the country, including the major refinieries in Baton Rouge. Animal Control is a law enforcement agency, and we could be called to assist with any emergy situation in our city. We stopped taking all calls but animal emergencies, and told our officers to finish their priority calls, come in from the field, and await orders from the Mayor on what our agency should do.

There were a lot of phone calls and emergency meetings that day. But most of that day was spent transfixed before the TV in the conference room. We watched as the firefighters rushed in and the towers fell. I felt my stomach drop -- my grandfather was a fire captain with the New Orleans Fire Department. That's his fire helmet in the picture.

I knew what the firefighters had done, and I knew that they were gone. I thought of an old friend who worked for Morgan Stanley as a Japanese translator, and I thought of the restaurant staff at Windows on the World. I worried about Jack and frantically tried to reach him, but of course all the phone lines to DC were jammed. So I e-mailed Jack at work and at home.

Finally, around four thirty, I got a brief, telegram-style e-mail from Jack: "Got home OK. Took all day. Scotty's safe, too. Try to call tomorrow. Unbelievable."

I called Dave and told him that Jack and his wife were OK.

At five o'clock, we made plans for answering emergency animal calls overnight, and everyone went home. Traffic was slow, and the sky was full of helicopters from the National Guard station. Guard trucks were deployed along the streets accessing Exxon, and from the Interstate, I could see helicopters circling the other chemical plants along the river.

I got home, hugged Dave, and we settled down to watch TV.

I was too stunned to knit for quite awhile but as I felt anxiety mounting within me, I reached for the nylon zipper-bag which held the socks I had in progress -- the socks pictured above. Noro Kureyon, and some leftover soft brown wool for the heels and toes.

I just clutched the socks and stared at the TV for a long time. And then I started knitting.

I had cast on and knitted about two inches of the first sock's cuff the night before.

By the time we finally went to bed on 9/11 -- long after midnight -- I had finished the second sock.

The funny thing is, I don't remember knitting them.

I don't recall a single stitch.

I remember picking them up, holding them, and starting to knit.

Then I remember having two finished socks. Some time after they were finished, I noticed that I had knitted the colorway in reverse on the second sock.

I remember that I rewound the skein when I started the the first sock the previous night, but in my horrified and zombie-like state on 9-11, I must have started the second sock right off the second ball, from the center pull. I didn't remember doing that. I never, ever, start a skein without rewinding it. But that's what I must have done that day.

I decided that I liked the randomness of the color sequence. They are fraternal twins, not identical. I like them, but I don't remember knitting them.

I only remember watching the day unfold on TV. I do remember feeling my hands knitting, but, although I must have glanced at my hands from time to time, I don't remember seeing my hands knitting. My eyes were locked on the TV.

I do not recall paying the least bit of attention to those socks. The socks simply served as a focus for all the random kinetic energy in my body, energy that wanted me to pace up and down, to run away, to pound fists against hard surfaces, to scream, to break things and slam doors, to crawl in a cave and hide.

But instead of doing any of those things, my hands made socks while the rest of me tried to absorb the shock.

My hands made socks, kept me grounded and kept panic at bay on that terrible day. My hands made socks while my mind processed one new realization at a time: thousands of people are dead.... we will never eat dinner at Windows on the World.... They are not finding survivors.... we will never see the view of New York from the top of the WTC.... The world has changed forever.

Of course, these socks have become my "9-11 Socks."

Everybody remembers exactly what they were doing and where they were on the morning of September 11.

But -- those of you who read my blog, I wonder -- what did you do to keep sane that day?

Did you knit? What did you knit? Do you still have the item, and can you ever use it without thinking of 9-11?

Let's all take a few moments today to remember those who died that day.


p.s. -- weeks later, I learned that my old friend no longer worked for Morgan Stanley, and was not in the WTC on 9/11.


At 8:12 AM, Blogger Flemisa said...

Thank you so very much for sharing your memories of that day.

I was at work and one of the other offices had a radio on and then later a TV. We stood in stunned silence unwilling to believe what we were seeing. Because the bosses were carrying on their work, we would drift away and then return like to a dangerous magnet. As soon as I reached home, CNN got turned on and I think it stayed on for several days.

I was knitting a baby shawl and wondering what sort of world that child would come into. As it is, the ends still need finishing off as I seem unable to close it off.

All the shows on this weekend are awakening that strong sense of loss. I also feel incomplete that the world seems not to have learned anything from the events except to fight in more places around the world. The coming together to help each other has seemed to have disappeared.

Hopefully, I am wrong. But I will keep knitting and thinking of my gifts of love that go out to others and how to increase them in as many ways as I can.

At 8:18 AM, Anonymous Barbara-Kay said...

9-11 is special to me because that was the day my DD and DSIL were scheduled to go to the fertility clinic in Los Angeles. I remember I called them, early there, because LA was mentioned as a possible target. They kept their appointment, and Maggie Rose is a precious 4 year old. They could only afford one try, and magically, it worked!

At 11:09 AM, Blogger Vivian said...

I hand wound a very large skein of lace weight purple cashmere into two large round balls. It took me two nights, while my brains were completely numb and could not knit one stitch.

At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Lori said...

I was supposed to be flying to Tuscon that day and had actually gone to the airport early as my best friend, her husband and baby had an earlier flight to Salt Lake. I was sitting at my gate knitting socks, waiting for my boarding call when the nationwide ground stop came. There were no TVs back there so no one knew what was happening, just snatches from overhearing the airline staff.

When the guy who was supposed to be flying with me arrived, we went to the ticket agent and asked what they were recommending, "Oh we'll start flying again in a couple of hours." I must have expressed my disbelief, and asked what would happen with our 'non-refundable' tickets (I work for a state university. We watch every penny.) "Honey, it's a war, we'll honor them."

We decided to get out of there before the airport got locked down. In the time it took to get to the car, the planes were ordered out of the sky. By the time I got back to the office, the first tower had fallen.

I went into the office so I could get the numbers to cancel all of our reservations, and then left before they locked down the university. If you work at a major research university, next door to a major DOD reseach organization, you pretty much figure you're a target.

I called my family to let them know I was OK. Dad said I should call my mom directly, cause he knew she was worried. I stopped at her office on my way home, and have probably never been hugged quite so tightly. I tried to stay home, but couldn't stand being alone with the awful reports.

My father was a firefighter and I understand what sent them into the towers. And I also know that they wouldn't have gone if they thought they were going to collapse. They had no reason to expect it, until that point we had never lost a modern steel structure to fire. But I'm an architect and I knew exactly what they would find in the rubble. Having sat the vigil in the past, my heart wept for what their families were going through and what they would face. I've never felt so helpless in my life. All my training said "do something" and there was nothing I could do.

I went to my LYS, selected pattern and yarn for a knock about/chore sweater. (Peace Fleece, Best Friend Sweater) And made a bunch of calls trying to track down my friends, as their plane was in the air when it happened. By the time I left at the end of the week to drive to Ann Arbor to pick them up I had a new sweater.

I remember how it came to be, but overlaid on that is the memory of the month I spent wearing it when I went to visit the same friends in their new home in New Zealand the following year. It was the only sweater I took with me and I wore it everywhere for 4 weeks.

At 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leonard Pitts in his column today wrote: "On September 10, 2001, such sights as those -- never mind the attendant feelings of fury and terror -- were unthinkable." I felt neither of those responses, just shock and unbearable grief. I stayed with Peter Jennings for hours on end, too mesmerized and horrified by those terrible images to do anything but stare at the television and cry. Except for sending checks to the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and a New York firefighter fund for widows and orphans, I felt completely helpless.
Toni in Portland, Oregon

At 5:50 PM, Anonymous Nancy said...

Oh, Dez,

I was with a group of wonderful grade three students who did not know anything awful had happened. We just kept on with the math and reading. I loved that! My student teacher and I would take turns slipping back to the computer and checking on the news and looking at each other and shaking our heads. I needed so much to keep busy with them. It was only days later when we were in group, and I was reading aloud to them, and as I paused we heard a jet airliner heading toward O'Hare. Twenty-three horrified little faces turned toward me. It was a "normal" sound and had been background noise for all their lives. I reassured them that planes were flying again and we got back to our book.


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