Yesterday morning my boys sat on our family room sofa, drinking their milk and wiping the sleep off their faces. My father, visiting from San Francisco, had risen early and turned on the morning news.
I heard my four year old tell his older brother to Look at that! A huge plane just crashed into that building! and felt my heart drop inside me.
It can't be, I thought. Not again.
As I hurried across the kitchen, coffee sloshed wildly in my mug. A dog followed close behind, lapping it up.
I remembered ten years ago. It was so long ago, ten thousand lifetimes away.
I was in my Subaru Outback driving through the streets of downtown Detroit. I was late for work, probably due to an evening of fun and too much beer. The radio played as I headed to my internship at the Health Department. I heard the news and went to work, not fully understanding what was happening in New York.
By the time I got to my office just after 9 the work of the day had stopped. Televisions were on. People congregated, unsure. Uneasy.
The next several days were a blur. From a bar in Ann Arbor my friends and I watched the President address our country.
I found out that someone I knew, a friend of our family, had been on one of the planes. I went to church and cried so hard I soaked my sleeves.
I remember feeling like life couldn't move forward.
But then it did.
Life moved forward in one hundred different directions. I graduated. Started my career, started the non-student portion of my life. I was suddenly a grown up in a Code Red world.
This is the only world my children have ever known. It's normal to them to hear about war, of weapons of mass destruction. They have friends whose fathers are deployed. It's normal to them to take off their shoes before boarding planes, to hear about IEDs and Suicide Bombs on the six o'clock news.
So when I heard panic in my son's voice yesterday morning it didn't occur to me that he was seeing that image for the very first time. I turned off the television and explained that what he'd seen wasn't live.
To him, though, it was happening as he sat in his dinosaur PJs, stuffed panda at his side, ready for another day of preschool and matchbox cars and everything else that it means to be four.
Being a parent is being a time traveler. One moment I'm fast forwarding through their lives. They are going to college, getting married. They are me.
The next, I see myself as a 24 year old on a pot-holed Detroit street, hearing that a plane has just struck the World Trade Center.
I have my feet on both sides of this line of time, just trying to make it make sense.