We replaced our American flag tonight with a new one since the last one had grown shaggy from a late winter storm. We’d never had a flag before September 11, 2001. Due to the rush on flags and emotion and profound need to display patriotism in such a simple way following the attack on America, there wasn’t a flag to be found. Eventually we found a wholesaler in Fullerton who had them in stock and went to wait in line with the rest of California. The couple who own the business were Muslim and displayed their green cards and work visas at the cash register as a means of crowd control.

My husband was at the gym on 9/11 and called to wake me to watch the television after being prompted by a phone call from a client’s daughter in Manhattan. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, only that it looked like a plane had accidentally crashed into a building and didn’t realize it wasn’t Los Angeles. I was stunned beyond belief when I watched the second plane hit the next building and burned my arm on the iron I was using in the process. By that time it was abundantly clear these were not accidents.

I went briefly to the women’s health clinic I worked at only to cancel the day after the first appointment showed up unaware of what had happened. After that, I went to the local Red Cross only to be turned away due to the overwhelming turnout for blood donors. Then I went home and stared at the television for the next two days in utter disbelief.

I’ll never forget going reluctantly back to work on September 13th when a client came in just to chat without an appointment. We were all so stressed and she seemed to want to unload but didn’t have a medical complaint. I think I asked her something totally stupid but textbook like, “Do you have any stress in your life now?” The answer was yes. Her little sisters’ grandparents (her dad had remarried) were on board American Airlines flight 11 which struck the north tower of the World Trade Center. I don’t even know what I said after that and I tear up every time I see her face in my mind’s eye. What can you say?

In memory of all the victims of September 11, 2001. Especially James and Mary Trentini and family.

Originally published on September 10, 2005.