Seven years ago today, I woke up on a Tuesday and thought “What a beautiful sky. I hope this lasts until Saturday.” Seven years ago today, I drove to work with the radio off, the better to monitor the funky noise my ancient hand-me-down car was making. Seven years ago today, I was sitting at my desk, composing some ridiculous message about how stressful the last week of wedding prep was, when I heard a colleague in our conference room yell “Oh my God, another plane!”

I remember watching White House staffers evacuate, all but running out of their shoes across the front lawn. I remember calling my then-fiance, who worked across the street from the WH complex, and getting a recording — this at a firm where a live human being will pick up the phone at 2 a.m. on Christmas Eve. I remember how empty the highway was driving back toward the city, and I remember how polite and passive we drivers were, as if we were starring in some tranq-laced driver-safety film. I remember it took Prince Charming six hours to walk home, and that I didn’t know where he was until he walked in the door.

I remember how the smoke smelled, driving past the Pentagon to fetch my future mother-in-law from the hotel where she had refugeed when her homebound flight, the last leg of her business trip, was grounded 10 minutes before she was supposed to board. I remember how every conversation began with “Are you OK? Did you know anyone?” I remember watching the news late into the night, and then waking up the next morning convinced it all had to be some delusional nightmare. I remember that for weeks afterward, I always had radio or TV or news site home page in the background, convinced that something else was bound to happen, that an even more terrible shoe was already in the process of dropping.

I remember how quiet it was; less traffic on the roads and no one in the sky. I remember the people who orchestrated crazy, all-night, cross-country drives to make it to the wedding after all. And I remember those who called and told us that they just couldn’t bring themselves to head toward Washington right now. I remember how deliberately everyone drank at the reception, not stopping until they could live in the present tense for a few hours. I remember checking and rechecking the status of our Sunday morning honeymoon flight, and waiting in the silent terminal with hundreds of other jittery passengers at 0-dark-30. I remember the soldiers with the guns, and the dog that barked, sending everyone three feet in the air. I remember watching the “you are here” flight tracker on board the plane, and how nobody talked until we passed Ohio.

Which is all not to say that I remember September 11 (not “nine eleven” — can we please not reduce the deaths of 3,000 people to some catchy shorthand?) for the way it ruined my wedding. What’s most ingrained is the transitional whiplash of it all, the way endings and beginnings and death and life and horror and hope were all jumbled together on top of each other. I remember how people came together in such an amazing and supportive way. And how quickly we reverted to business as usual. I pray that at some point we can make sense of what happened, and use our memories for something constructive. And I pray that those whose memories are far worse than mine can find peace somehow, somewhere.

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