Like so many others, I want to write about my memory of that day 9 years ago, a Tuesday, beautiful and sunny, cool, clear and full of blue-sky promises. If you were a student, you'd have felt you'd pass any quiz that morning. If you were just out walking your dog, you and your pooch would have frisked and run, not just walked.
If you had leukemia and had to have a bone marrow biopsy, well that might very well be the worst thing that you could anticipate, but such a beautiful merry day might presage healing and hope.
My husband has Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML). He had been diagnosed in January 2001. By June he had become severely depressed from his treatments (Interferon & Ara-C, the standard at the time). His doctor decided to prescribe Gleevec, a drug that targets the specific cancer-causing mechanism in CML. His first dose was on June 30th, if I recall correctly and we were visiting St. Louis. Within a short period of time, his mood and energy level improved. He was due for a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy on September 11th, 2001 and a week after that we'd see if it was the new medicine working or just not suffering the debilitating effects of Interferon and chemo.
So the worst thing I expected, that day, was to hold his hand while the med techs punctured his hip bone and drew bloody, viscous samples of his bone and bone marrow. I anticipated my husband's pain and that was it. Soon, soon I hoped, we'd hear that his disease was being defeated.
He met me at the entrance to the KU Med Cancer Center (it was on the hospital's main campus at the time) with the words, "There's been an attack!" I said, "what, the Palestinians and Israelis? They're at it again?" because that seemed reasonable to me.
My husband said no, they'd attacked the World Trade Center...and we went to the waiting room and were riveted to a small television. There were the words about the attack and then without warning, another plane flew into a building and the buildings collapsed.
The news about the Pentagon. The news about a flight going down in Pennsylvania.
The beautiful September day full of transitory pain and ongoing hope was ruined.
My husband had his bone marrow biopsy. The results showed that the medicine was working. A year after his diagnosis, he was in remission.
This is one story out of many. One memory: September 11, 2001 and my husband's disease are linked forever in my mind. But I have this memory of the day after: I am driving and it is a little overcast. At an intersection, cars are slowing down to hand money to firefighters raising money for bereaved families in New York.
I look at the cars next to me. No one is smiling. No one is putting on makeup. No one is even sipping coffee. We are one in our pain and our awareness of our suffering. We are all there, holding each others' hands while the terrorists ripped at our hearts. The great horror of the attacks drew us closer as a nation for a while.
E pluribus unum.