This post is in commemoration of September 11th, 2001.
School started up again, and Rita turned her attention to studying about the ocean all she could in her free time. Sometimes on a Saturday afternoon, Rita would bike over to her fourth grade teacher Miss Telly’s house, and they would spend the afternoon together, reading about and discussing the ocean.
“Miss Telly, look at this fish, can you believe that it lives this far down in the water?” Rita held up the book she was reading to reveal a evil-looking lantern fish, with bulging eyes and razor-sharp teeth.
Miss Telly smiled. “It is amazing.” She paused, then said, “I certainly wouldn’t want to meet up with one of those!” Rita turned to her book again, and there was quiet in the room for a few minutes.
Miss Telly sat up. “Oh, there was an article that I wanted to show you! It’s about this man’s speculations on where Atlantis might be!” She jumped to her feet, and went to her desk. “I think I left it in here...” She rummaged around for a few minutes, and Rita came over to help look. “Oh, bother! I think I left it upstairs. I’ll be right back.” She hurried out of the room.
“I’ll keep looking,” Rita called after her. She turned over some papers, looking for anything oriented with the ocean. She didn’t mean to snoop, but as she pushed away some papers, her eyes fell on a picture of a man and Miss Telly in scuba diving gear. Setting the papers down, she picked up the photo and turned it over.
Me and Jack. August, 2001. Rita frowned. What were this man Jack and Miss Telly doing? She was so busy thinking, she didn’t hear Miss Telly come back into the room.
Miss Telly took the photo from her, and Rita jumped. “Oh, I’m so sorry, Miss Telly! I didn’t realize I was snooping, I’m sorry! I was just looking for the...” She noticed that Miss Telly wasn’t listening, she had sat down and was holding the photo tightly and staring off into space. “ Miss Telly? Are you okay?” She sat down beside her teacher and took her hand.
Miss Telly started, as if she had forgotten that Rita was there. “Oh, Rita! I’m sorry, I was just thinking.” She squeezed Rita’s hand and smoothed the photograph on her lap. Then she looked up. “Well, you see, this picture is very important to me, but I get really sad when I see it sometimes. I know, rather overly-emotional of me, but I can’t help it.”
Rita shifted her position. She was simply dying to know what was so sad about the picture, but she knew it wouldn’t be polite to ask, especially when looking at it made her teacher so sad. So instead of asking, she pressed her lips together and was silent, figuring if Miss Telly wanted to tell her, she could.
Fortunately for Rita, Miss Telly was in the mood to talk, and after a moment, she began. “The man in the picture was my fiance, Jack. He and I were planning to get married in September of 2001.” She stopped and Rita tried not to fidget. “In this picture, we were about to on a scuba diving expedition in the Caribbean.” Miss Telly’s eyes grew dreamy. “We had a wonderful time that day. We swam around, looking at the coral reefs, and studying and taking pictures of the fish; you would love to go scuba diving in the Caribbean, Rita. It’s a wonderful experience.” Miss Telly stopped again, and Rita could tell she was reliving the day she had spent with Jack. She leaned back on the couch and waited until Miss Telly was ready to go on.
“Well, September came around, and finally, it was just a few more days until the wedding.” Rita’s stomach lurched, and she began to suspect what was going to happen next. She was right. “We both were working in New York at the time, so we could see each other often. I woke up two days before the wedding with butterflies in my stomach. I was so excited, and after I ate breakfast, I called Jack, who was working over at the World Trade Center, to say good morning.”
Her voice caught, and Rita clenched the armrest. “We talked for a few minutes, and then he said that he saw a plane coming toward the city at a low altitude. He sounded a bit concerned, and I asked him if anything might be wrong with the plane. He said he wasn’t sure. Then, not thirty seconds later, he yelled something I couldn’t make out, there was a terrific crashing sound, and the line went dead. I panicked and drove out to the Trade Center in five minutes flat. But by that time it was too late. I think you know the rest, the Twin towers were hit by two planes that had been hijacked by terrorists. By the time I got there, the North Tower had a plane sticking out of it, and there were flames and smoke shooting up from the building. I was hysterical, but I couldn't do anything.”
She stopped, and Rita put her arms around her teacher. “Fifteen minutes later, the South Tower was struck by another plane. This whole time I had hardly gotten out of my car, but was still standing where I had parked and started to get out, far enough away from the Trade Center to not get hurt, but close enough to see.” She took a deep breath, and reached for a tissue. “So, that is what happened. The South Tower collapsed first, at around 9:58, followed by the North Tower at 10:28. And there was nothing I could do” She put down the tissue and reached for another. Rita swallowed hard, tears running down her cheeks as she silently squeezed Miss Telly’s hand. Miss Telly wiped her eyes, and took another deep breath.
“So, that is what happened. I never saw Jack again. Since he was on one of the levels the plane hit, I comfort myself with the fact that he died instantly, and not with much pain.” Her voice quieted to a whisper. “It has been seven years since then. But, oh Rita! I miss him so much!” The room was quiet for a long time, with only the sounds of the wind moving through the curtains.
Than Rita put her arms around Miss Telly again and hugged her. “Oh, Miss Telly, I’m so sorry. So very sorry.” ~ The Lost World.