July 1, 2001 M begins his new job, the one that brought us to the DC suburbs.
I spend the days painting our new home and job hunting. On weekends, we build a wall of bookshelves for our basement family room. I paint them.
August 1, 2001 I interview for a great job that I know I’m going to get. It’s in a fascinating little gem of a museum in a historic neighborhood in Baltimore, just blocks past the Inner Harbor and downtown. As I drive in and back home I stare up at the skyscrapers around me, particularly the Baltimore World Trade Center rising against the gleaming water. The small-town girl in me loves tall buildings and I think that I will enjoy this commute.
August 12, 2001 Back in New York for just a long weekend, we are married. My dad can breathe a sigh of relief that we are no longer living in sin.
We have a wonderful wedding and collect what seems to us to be a fantastic pile of cash amongst our wedding gifts. We decide we will use a portion of it to buy two things we’re sorely lacking: a dining room set and a couch for the family room, a place to watch TV and enjoy the music and books that line all those shelves we built. You know, not the floor – which is where we’ve been sitting.
We spend just a few days on the Delaware shore and hurry home. I have a new job to start.
August 20, 2001 I begin commuting daily to Baltimore. I’m new and unsure and fresh out of graduate school, but I think I’m going to love this job. I told them at the interview that I was getting married but I didn’t think to tell them what name I’d be using. Nobody knows what to call me.
The amazing china cabinet we found in Delaware is delivered. And we find the perfect couch! M arranges to work from home on the day of its delivery.
September 11, 2001 I drive in to Baltimore, listening to NPR. The story I’m enjoying so much I’m willing to sit in the parking lot an extra minute to finish is interrupted by news of a plane crash in New York. I guess I’ll go inside.
A coworker I barely yet know runs through the employee entrance screaming about two planes, about hijackers. Two planes? We all gather around the tiny TV in the staff kitchen.
Local news breaks in: authorities are considering advising the evacuation of downtown Baltimore. What if hijackers are planning to hit this World Trade Center? Who’s behind this? What are their motives?
Just about 10 miles from our new house, the Pentagon is hit.
The museum director declares us to be hysterical and loudly declares he’s going back to his office to work, which he then does. Local news is advising downtown workers to stay calm and proceed in an orderly fashion, for those who feel they should leave the area. There is no clear instruction.
My immediate supervisor is a born-and-bred Manhattanite. She gets a call from her father, begging her just to get out. Should I? Is there any real danger? Does it matter that I've only worked here for three weeks? That I have no accrued leave? She tells me: go. So I go.
I try to call M but the switchboards to our area code are jammed. I can’t call him. I drive home, past the Baltimore World Trade Center, alone.
The couch was delivered so early in the day that M was considering going in to the office. Then his secretary called him: “turn on the TV.” So he does. He sees the images and sits down. On the couch.
DC area residents are asked to stay off the roads.
I can’t get off the roads until I get home. It takes quite a while. When I get there, we sit all day on the couch. And watch. We go to a special prayer service at our synagogue that evening and return home to watch the news. The only comments we say are about the horror we’re watching, or about the amazing comfort of the couch.
That weekend, the crickets came. The air turns cooler and these field crickets invade everybody’s basements. That first year in Maryland we didn’t know what they were. These crickets could eat New York crickets for breakfast. We called them ‘jumping spiders’ and I hated them. I thought they had been on the delivery truck. I thought they came in the couch.
September 2002 The crickets return. We know what they are now, but still call them ‘jumping spiders.’ I still hate them. We still love our couch. The news is filled with memorial ceremonies.
October 2002 The DC snipers are shooting people all over the county we call home. Filling the car with gas is a ritual in bravery and faith. For weeks we watch the news coverage about it, as we always do, on our couch.
September 2005 We sell the townhouse and buy a free-standing Colonial. Its family room is on the first floor, where we install the couch. Its four bedrooms are on the second floor, where we daydream of the little girl growing inside me and the two siblings we hope we’ll one day install behind those extra doors.
September 2009 We still love that couch, though its now covered in blue crayon and popsicle drippings and a little bit of purple glitter glue (don’t flip the cushions). Second sibling is securely installed upstairs and third sibling is coming along nicely. This might be the last year that our eldest doesn’t know about 9/11.
Life is full of uncertainties but there is comfort in the things we do know. Like: our family is safe. Like: the weather is turning cooler, and that means the crickets are coming.