Ah, coffee’s less than delicate path to wakefulness! Sitting at this table, delights of my beverage’s geographic history playing on my palette, I consider my response to my friend’s question: “where were you on Nine Eleven?”
An organ’s keys feel so much different than a piano or harpsichord. My church’s organist first let me sit at her bench around my tenth birthday. Both manuals felt powerful when looking up towards those pipes. Barely able to touch the pedals, I rocked on the bench to play the different scales she stated. She laughed as my tush nearly slid off the bench stretching for that highest note. Thoughts of music, especially organ, bring out the happiest of memories.
Early morning on September Eleventh, my wife and I dropped off our young son with a friend then rode the train into the City. Excited to meet with the music director and rector to discuss the opportunity to work on their Schlicker organ. And lovely to ride with my wife, having coffee in the Starbucks at the World Trade Center. Then, after a kiss, she stepped into the line for the elevator, away into oblivion.
The briefest of meetings, working through my playing a few services for their vacationing staff, most of my effort entailed plugging in dates into my calendar, grabbing copies of music, then parting. Not even twenty minutes, as they were busy, busy. I thought about running through a few pieces, as no one was in the space then, but opted to head back home. My earlier promise to pick up my son and take him to lunch called heavily. That happens when you miss an earlier date; the disappointed and continual reminders added a sense of urgency. I delighted that my music career, and my wife’s financial analytics career enabled me to, essentially, stay at home. Those disappointments hurt all the more.
Looking through the strange emotional tunnel of time, I thought I heard “something” as I walked toward my friends’ house. I puzzled when unable to use my cell phone, then noticed their home phone had no signal. Whipping the door open after I knocked, she asked if I’d heard from Kim, and that’s when I learned about the crashes, and the burning towers. Staring mindlessly at the TV, watching the smoke rise, then the buildings fall, and upon my useless phone, numbness hit. Though the briefest thought of “you should go home in case she tries calling” rose, it sank into the murky knowledge: she was gone.
My friend’s puzzled face brings me into myself. My silence too long. “I was in New York. Friends and loved ones died. Years later, it hurts.” His cringe stings gently and I smile. “Healing is funny. New love grows, the old loves becomes warm, with sepia tones. Through that, you learn what’s important.” Looking into my cup, ripples of darkness distort my reflection, bouncing back from the edges, their energy fading, and smile.