Energy was positive. I was bustling around my apartment in Dallas, getting ready for the day. In a few minutes, I would walk outside to my 1994 burgundy GMC Jimmy and head eleven miles south, into the heart of the design district. There, for nineteen more days, I would be employed at a small furniture manufacturer.
I had lived in Dallas for four months, moving there right out of college. I’d sent my resume out to every residential interior designer in the area who had been mentioned in House Beautiful within the past three years, eventually landing a job with a furniture manufacturer. The idea had been that I would design furniture pieces, help with consultations at their retail location, and then to just generally do whatever it was that needed to be done. I was ok with that. I was good with that.
It hadn’t been easy, though. I had moved to Dallas at twenty-two years old, not knowing a soul. I figured I would meet people, somehow. Church or something, you know? But I was a bit of a wall-flower, and definitely an introvert, and church was hard to get to by myself. My mom would tell me to go, that the “fellowship will be an encouragement” and so I’d go to the Sunday service, and then leave before I got sucked into some awful singles’ group. The term “singles’ group” annoyed the fire out of me, in fact. What awful terminology. The very name reminded me how alone I was in the world, and I didn’t want much part of anything that was such a constant reminder.
After three months, instead of meeting people, I found myself lonelier than ever before. My aunt and uncle lived in Arlington, and I’d see them on the weekends, but that left empty hours in the weekday evenings. The manager at the retail store location was extremely kind to me. She had daughters around my age and she’d take me to dinner and we’d talk. I appreciated her friendship and company, but I’d still head north to my apartment every night and cry myself to sleep. There was a girl who was a friend of my aunt who was also moving from Missouri to Dallas that fall, and according to my aunt, she didn’t know anyone either. Assuming that was good, I looked forward to meeting her, and pressed forward with my very unglamorous schedule of 8 to 5, then home to scrapbook and sleep.
About three months in to this new job and new life, and exactly eleven days before, my boss had shaken her finger at me, told me I was a “steamroller”, that it wasn’t working out, and that I had to find a new job. So I had. And on October 1, I was going to begin my second full-time job as a furniture sales person at a retail showroom down the street from my apartment. Which left exactly nineteen days at current job left to finish out. I was looking forward to the change, if only because it meant I was going me meet new people.
My morning routine was simple: sleep for as long as possible. The radio on my stereo system in my armoire would come on as an alarm clock. Shower. Check email. I had a television, but it wasn’t plugged in. Breakfast of some kind, probably toast and jelly or cereal. Coffee from the cheap little coffee maker in the laminate-slathered kitchen. Jump in the car, drive downtown. Apply mascara during drive.
That morning, the radio had come on, and woken me up, but for some reason, I hadn’t turned up the volume. Shower, dress, breakfast. Email check returned nothing. As I was heading out the door, the thought occurred to me that I hadn’t heard a song on the radio that morning–they’d been talking an awful lot. I swung past the armoire, twisted the knob on the radio volume, and heard that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. Realizing this was not good, but assuming it was an accident, I spritzed on a bit of perfume and jumped in the car.
It was on the Dallas Tollway that Dan Rather told me, over the radio, that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center and that “our country was under attack.” I immediately pictured a wave of attacks rolling over the country, from east coast to west, and wondered if I should turn the car around. By the time I arrived at the furniture manufacturer’s showroom downtown, towers had fallen. My boss was nowhere to be found, but Jesse, the gal in charge, shook her head and said she was going home. “We’re living in one of the largest cities in the United States,” she said. “I’m not sticking around.” The other gal in the showroom agreed. So I got back in my car, headed back to my apartment, and called my mom, who told me to keep a full tank of gas in the car and to pack a bag and keep it in the car.
The world had changed.
I plugged in the television at my apartment and watched horror unfold. My boss eventually touched base and gave me rights to leave for the next couple of days, and by that afternoon, I was on the road back to Oklahoma. Headed home, back to my family and my heart. No one knew what was going on, so why stick around Dallas? For all we did know, the world was ending.
September 11, 2001, was pivotal in all of our lives, but I think, for me, it signified so much more than just a shift in our mindset as a society. For me, it was the culmination of much loneliness, frustration, and feeling completely misplaced in the world. It left me longing for home. It made me realize, as it did millions of others, that life is short, that there are no second chances, and that there really isn’t much time for loneliness, and there definitely isn’t time for self-pity. You’ve got to create the world you want to be a part of. You have to design the life you want to live.
So this is the beginning of my story. Of course, there is a lot that happened in my life prior to September 11, 2001, but in hindsight, those moments don’t seem to matter as much as the ones that came after September 11, so we’re calling this the beginning. September 11 set the stage for change for so many of us, and I wasn’t about to let the opportunity pass me by. No, I was about to grab change by the horns and hang on for the ride of my life.
I’m committing to tell a little bit more of the story each Thursday, as sort of a blogging ritual, rhythm, and routine. Tuesdays will be newsletter day (you can sign up in the side bar) and Thursdays will be story time. Tune in next Thursday to find out what happens next.
Just for conversation’s sake, where were you on September 11? Let me know in the comments.