In 2001, my birthday fell on Labor Day Monday. And my husband and I had arranged to spend the entire week in San Francisco with my in-laws. We flew home after a damn near perfect week spent in the city and the wine country, eating and drinking far more than is absolutely necessary. Our flight back to Austin returned us home on Saturday, September 8th, and I was scheduled to head to DC for business meetings the following afternoon.
On Sunday, September 9th, my husband begged me not to go. “I don’t feel good about you leaving. Reschedule the meetings. You don’t need to be there. It’s not important. Just stay here. Please. Please. Please, stay here.”
Of course, I didn’t. I flew into Dulles. Spent that night in a hotel near the airport, ate dinner alone.
Monday morning, September 10th, I attended what remains the worst business meeting of my life. I left a building in downtown DC in a state of befuddled confusion because what should have been a meeting to sign a deal turned into a schizophrenic tirade by an out-of-control entrepreneur. I was escorted by an apologetic company director who told me our dinner meeting was cancelled.
I checked my voice mail, only to learn that my Tuesday morning meeting near the Pentagon had also been cancelled. As I drove back out to Dulles, I got caught in a mid-day traffic jam. Looking around, I found myself on Pennsylvania Avenue, parked in front of the White House.
I was coming down with a cold.
I returned to my hotel and checked out, heading to the airport a day earlier than planned. My airline found a way to get me on a late flight out of Dulles, and the kind clerk upgraded me to first class to make up for what had been a shitty day.
I spent four hours in the airport, four sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching hours. I drank only orange juice on the flight home. I made it to our house just after midnight, in the wee early hours of Tuesday, September 11th.
We were up early to commute together to work the next day, but when we got to the office, it was chaos. My sales director was scrambling to reach New York; his best friend worked in one of those towers. About an hour later, our CEO sent everyone home.
My husband and I went to church. Where we sat in the dark of the sanctuary and watched this horror unfold on a pair of big-screens that normally only projected lyrics to worship songs. And we weeped and held each other and waited for the other shoe to drop.
And in the loudest silence of this life, my beloved whispered, “I’m so glad you came home early.”