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Thursday, September 11, 2003

Turn off the alarm

About a year ago we moved the alarm clock to my wife's side of the bed. It was a practice in relationship survival. When she had to get up at 6am, I didn't want to be the keeper of the alarm. When she didn't have to get up early, she'd turn into dragon-wife after I hit snooze for the 18th time. Like the TV remote control belongs in my capable hands, the alarm clock belongs to my wife.

It has gotten so that I barely hear the alarm anymore. I wake up more easily to my wife calling from mid-shower. She knows that by the time she's finished, I'll be dragging myself toward cleanliness. This morning, however, I woke up when the alarm went off. My wife rolled over and said, "I don't know why I set the alarm for 8:15." That meant, she probably thought eight hours ago that she needed to get up a little early, but she couldn't remember why. She hit snooze and I drifted into the sleep of a man trying to remember if something important was happening.

My wife bought a fancy new razor a week ago. While I was intrigued by the razor (it looks like someone invented a bar of soap with a blade in the middle), I was more taken with the waterproof shower radio that came with it. It was that radio, not my wife's call, that pushed me out of bed this morning. I heard the voice of a calm NPR anchor and I remembered.

Today is September 11th.

Two years ago this morning it was the phone that woke me up. My mother: "Are you watching this?" I wasn't. I had overslept. Minutes later, I was in my car, unshaven, unshowered, and on my way to tell disembarking passengers at my local airport that their country was under attack. Watching their faces as I delivered the news firsthand is an experience that put a permanent hole in my psyche.

This morning, I didn't turn on the TV. I wobbled to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and kissed my wife as I entered the shower. The cheap radio was in between frequencies and full of static. I fumbled with the wet buttons, trying to find a news program. Instead, I found a morning comedy team. I left it there and let Peter Frampton joke with the boys of the radio. Just like last year, America was calm. Planes were taking off and landing, people were being good worker bees, and the morning radio jocks weren't being pre-empted by network coverage of hell under the red, white, and blue.

On the way to work, I passed by the news radio stations again. Remembrance, but no news. Peter Frampton was still joking. In my morning news meeting, there was an understanding: Our station would recognize what day it was, but we would not forget the other news of the day. Two hours later, about the time two years ago I was telling a group of confused passengers from the northeast that they wouldn't be going home that day, I was standing at a different airport, preparing a report on a neat new runway improvement.

And then, lunch. Sub sandwich, baked chips, diet soda.

This, for better or worse, is normal.

I wonder as I sit in the middle of a conspicuously normal day, how September 11th will be recognized 50 years from now. Will it be a December 7th? Will it be a July 4th? Or will it be just another day, perhaps recognized on morning news programs during a "This Day In History" segment.

We have, indeed, moved on. But the feeling--at least inside my head--is still there. Otherwise, I wouldn't have woken up this morning until I heard my wife's sweet voice call from the shower.


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