Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hoofprints and the Dust

I wrote this back in 2002, and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. But I just can't think of a better way to say it. Be sure to click on the link to the song "Overcome" at the end. It still brings tears to my eyes and, oddly enough, hope to my heart. We can be better people -- if we only remember to watch where we step.


When I was a very little girl, my mother came early one day to pick me up from school. All the mothers were whispering, some had been crying. It didn’t take long to realize from the whispers that President Kennedy had been killed. I’ll bet everyone my age or older can tell you exactly where they were on That Day. In 2001, there was another such Day, and I swore I’d never write about it. I guess I lied.

I get funny looks when I tell people what I was doing on September 11. I know some people consider me selfish and shallow when I tell them I was riding my horse.
Things were just starting to look normal again after a miraculous and terrible summer. My horse,  Fox, had recovered from emergency colic surgery with no complications whatsoever, and I had even started riding him again.  I had returned to work for another school year, and life was good.
I don’t usually listen to the radio on the way to work, but on that day, for some reason, I did. Stunned by the news, I pulled to the side of the road for a moment. I thought, "It’s time to get busy." Talk about déjà vu – that is exactly the phrase that popped to mind when I was awakened early on a Sunday morning three months earlier and told they’d already called the vet and I’d better get to the barn quick. The difference was that this time there was no panic, no welling up of tears, just "It’s time to get busy."

The school was filled with tears and whispers that day. Some parents kept their kids home. Others came and stayed. The news unfolded on a TV in the teachers’ lounge. The kids asked what we were going to do, and all I could say was, "Well, I guess we’ll be here, and we will go on." I’m not sure if I believed it or not.

After school, I couldn’t listen to the news for one more second. I did the ultimate selfish thing – while the world sat glued to CNN, Fox and I went for a ride. It had been months since we’d done anything more than walk and trot, but that day, I just let him dance. Back swinging, ears forward, mouth soft – this was not a sick horse. This was my partner of eighteen years, moving like a metronome, just like he always did. I had worried all day about my friends in New York: The middle school teacher; my friend in the wheelchair; the struggling actor who had a day job on the fifth floor of Tower Two. The metronome blotted out all of that for a little while and replaced it with circles, shoulder-ins, and hoofprints in the dust. I’m almost ashamed to say it was the ride of my life.

Relief drifted in gradually over the next few days. The friend in the wheelchair was nowhere near the WTC, but he couldn’t tell anyone for quite a while because his phone was out. The middle school school teacher had to take on students from schools that were closed because of the dust -- a thick, gray layer that had to be removed by men in biohazard gear because, she said matter-of-factly, "They don’t know who is in that dust." My actor friend reported that he had escaped Tower Two in the nick of time. Only an Armani suit fell victim to the attack.

I felt surprisingly different after that ride. Where were all those niggling little peeves that seemed so important only a few days earlier? I still think about the dust – how many times had I been so focused on some goal or other that I didn’t even bother to notice what was under my feet? Could it be that too much focus might be a bad thing? Watch where you step, folks, I thought. You don’t know who’s in that dust.


SAF Foxfire 3/14/80 - 8/6/04
*This  song by Live became associated with the September 11 attacks on the United States. Proceeds from the sale of the single were donated to charities to benefit the victims of the attack. (Source: Wikipedia)

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