Beth-esda (Place of Ease)

The Washington Gas man
in his blue uniform
is here to fix the stove. I
must look shocked. Traffic’s
bad, he’s sorry he’s
late. He knows
the Pentagon was hit, his son
works there. I offer
my phone. That’s OK,
he says and pulls the stove
from the wall. He doesn’t
think he’ll get through
Early this morning
after the bus loaded my son
in his wheelchair, roared
him off to preschool, my
husband and I talked
outside on the corner
for some time. The sky
bluer than we could
imagine, deep, clear.

My husband works
near the White House.
The first time I call him
I say I just wanted you
to know, one of the World
Trade towers is on fire, does
anyone you know
from law school work there?

Before a snow storm
in WDC we go to the
market to buy bread and
milk and bottled water
because we think
we’ll be trapped until
the plow shows up. We know
with more than twelve
inches, they’ll clear snow
emergency routes over
and over even though
no one can get to them.

I am still talking to
my husband’s voicemail
now I am screaming
because the South Tower
has exploded, the fireball
is thirty stories high. I
hang up.

When I go to the World
Market today the owner
wants cash. All I can see
from the store windows
is gridlock.

I call my husband again
this time he picks up, says
he is on a conference call
with the home office in NYC
they have heard the World
Trade Center is on fire, but
nothing is wrong
In Times Square.

A friend, Terri, says she stayed
at her desk because
leaving made no sense. From her
window, she watched
the tanks and army take DC.

Now the phone lines are
jammed my cell phone has
no signal I don’t know if
schools will close early
my son can’t speak.
I don’t know if they will
use the regular bus driver.

My daughter clings to me like
a marsupial as I run past
the lawn guy who doesn’t seem
to know the World Trade Center
is on fire and the Pentagon
has been hit. Neither
does Robin, my neighbor.

A few days later, I turn
the corner by Our Lady
of Lourdes and the street
is full of blue American
Airlines uniforms.

The North Tower is leaning
at a funny angle. I have
never seen a building
curve like that. Robin and I
shout at the talking heads
who think someone
will do something even
we are surprised when
it straightens slowly and
implodes so neatly
floor after floor.
That week
Robert’s teacher asks
why I think they won’t
find more bodies. I say the
kinetic energy the force
expended in those seconds.
It is beyond her. Her neighbor
died at the Pentagon.

My husband gets home
at noon. While we wait for
Robert’s bus I want to pack
the car trunk of we need
to do is put the kids
in their car seats. Roger says
no, all the planes are down
he thinks we should
stay. Finally the bus.
Just like any day.

All night there is no
noise except when
the F-16s pivot above
in formation circling
the Beltway. When they
fly low, the house shakes
inside the engines’ screams.

After the Senate building closes
due to anthrax, book group
meets at Patty’s house to read
another novel about World
War II. Patty knew
a family killed on the plane
that hit the Pentagon. Renee’s
father says he will fly
out from California to show
her how to properly
seal her windows with plastic
and duct tape so she will be
OK if there is nuclear fallout.
Dad, she told him, we’ll just
Be dead.
My son’s physical
therapist and I are amazed
by his stepping, his new
range of motion usually
he is so immobile and
contained. We know
the fourth plane was for
the Capitol and not
the White House. Kristen thinks
to hit it they would have
to zig-zag and precision
nose-dive. We don’t think
they were skilled pilots.

That fall, my son’s doctors
write extra scrips for
his medications because
we don’t know what
might happen next. I pack
one evacuation bag
for school and put one
on a shelf in his closet.

This year, Robert has
turned a corner he is
in first grade. He can
raise his right hand
for yes, his left for
no. He will never
be OK.

:: Jeneva Stone, in Colorado Review (spring 2006)

1 comment:

  1. Finally the bus.
    Just like any day.

    Yes, exactly.