Our wedding day was perfect. PER-FECT. I’m talking the kind of perfect that made the angels weep. The kind of perfect that would make Martha Stewart pass out because she could never achieve that level of amazing. The kind of perfect that memories of a lifetime are made of and that you cherish forever.
I wore a beautiful cream gown, my bridesmaids wore hunter green and carried sunflowers. The gents were in British Day coats (ahem, read: tails) and they all looked dashing (read: way different than their usual uniform of flannels while carrying red solo cups). Our church was a tiny cathedral on the Main Line of Philadelphia and the skies were shade of blue that matched my beloved’s eyes. Our families, friends and coworkers gathered to help us usher in the most exciting chapter of our lives and we could barely contain our smiles and giddiness. We wore slap happy grins and giggled through the “for richer or poorer” section because we didn’t have a pot to piss in. We drove away from the church in a yellow VW Beetle, the backseat filled with daisies and mums.
It was September 11. 1999.
Little did we know that our tiny bit of perfection would be marred forever in just two short years.
The morning of the tragedy, I had returned home from working night shift to catch a few hours sleep before getting ready for our anniversary dinner. Hubby was going to stop home for a bit but planned not to wake me up so it came as a huge surprise when he barged into our room and said, “You have to get up. Planes just hit the Trade Center”. Groggy and confused, I simply followed him to the television downstairs and watched with the rest of the world as our lives as Americans changed forever. We took turns answering the phone (while the lines were still up) as our concerned families called us, fearful that “the little town in Pennsylvania” was ours. We talked to my brothers to make sure they got out of Oklahoma City, where they were both working, and promised we’d talk as soon as we could.
Mostly, though, we just sat on the couch and cried together.
When the towers fell, the enormity of what happened did not register with me at first. As I watched the building crumble, Hubby kept saying, “Omg. Those people. Those poor people” over and over. I kept saying, “No, they’ve been evacuated. It’s just the building” and then reality hit, reflected in Hubby’s agonized expression and the tears in his blue eyes. There were no evacuations. There were people in the buildings. Thousands and thousands of people.
Life changed before our very eyes that day.
In the ensuing hours, there were many calls to action from local hospitals for medical personnel. As a doctor and a nurse, we heeded those calls and started to pack bags to go to NYC to help anyway we could. We called our parents, told them that we would be volunteering to get on helicopters and busses that would leave from Hubby’s hospital and tearfully promised we’d stay safe. Hubby tried to convince me to stay behind but I refused. We started our lives together on that day and we would go to NYC together. No ifs, ands or buts.
And then the devastating page came: “No Survivors. Medical Personnel Not Needed At This Time”.
Oh. Oh, God. Oh, God in Heaven.
The rest of the afternoon passed in a fog: continuous looping of CNN, MSN and all major channels to keep our panic at bay. Airports closed. Phone lines down. Mass hysteria. Us on our couch. It’s the most helpless I’ve ever felt in my life and I’d venture to say it’s the most helpless any of you has ever felt. We were together, but alone, scared but united, terrified and enraged. Our America was broken that day but we were resolved to get it back.
Around 5 pm, Hubby mentioned that we had 7 pm reservations. Was the restaurant open? Should we venture out? Was it safe? What was the right thing to do on the Worst Anniversary Ever? At first, my instinct was to hide in our family room, under the covers and never leave the house again. The couch was safe, I knew where Hubby was and no one could hurt us there. But, as I contemplated the devastation on TV and the horrific suffering, a part of me wanted to salvage a tiny part of the perfect that we had had two years before. A part of me wanted to remind Bin Laden that he couldn’t take away everything from Americans. In my own small way, leaving the house showed defiance in the face of terror.
Some will be shocked that we did, in fact, go out to the restaurant as planned. To our surprise, it was open for business and we were welcomed by staff grateful to take their minds off the day, even for a small while. As we sat quietly at our table, nibbling at our food and watching the news coverage at the bar, our eyes spoke what our mouths could not say out loud. Most of the meal found us holding hands across the table, silent tears flowing and praying that our world would heal. We were together and there were thousands who could no longer say the same.
Tomorrow, Hubby and I, like the rest of the nation, will remember. We vowed that we’d never forget how we felt and that we’d draw on our connectedness that day during tough times in our marriage. We vowed that we would explain to our children what happened and make sure that history never again repeats itself. We will participate in memorial moments of silence, we will listen as the names are read and we will remember. We will always remember.
But, we also vowed to love, honor and cherish each other that day in 1999. So, while we are remembering tragedy, please forgive us if we also remember that on a beautiful day in September 1999, a doctor and a nurse got married on 911 and, for a moment in time, perfect was ours.