It was six thirty in the morning and I had just thrown my last paper on the route. With a sigh, I glanced over to my route partner to make sure he was buckled in. He had fallen asleep about five miles back, and I didn’t really want to wake him if I didn’t have to. I squinted a little as I turned the corner from the driveway onto the black top – this was the one part of the route I absolutely despised because I had to drive into the newly rising sun.
Humph, at least the road is empty. It could be worse – we could have gotten our papers late AGAIN. Then I’d have to worry about oncoming traffic. I swear the office wants to see us dead. They keep delaying our papers later and later.
I scraped the extra rolled papers into the back seat area of the cab and settled in for the hour and a half drive home. Since it was still nice, I didn’t bother to roll up the windows, just cranked up the radio and turned off the heat we’d needed during the pre-dawn hours.
As I wended my way from back in the sticks toward civilization, the traffic grew heavier. Finally, a little over half way home, I gave in and rolled up the windows because the traffic noise was annoying me, and starting to make my partner stir in his sleep. I may be a bear to wake up – he’s a bear with a sore tooth unless you’ve got a cigarette and coffee waiting on him when his eyes crack open. I had neither.
About the time the windows seated in their seals it felt like the world side slipped about two feet. I grabbed hold of the steering wheel, and hung on for dear life, driving a straight line down the suddenly surreal pavement. Then what was being said on the radio began to penetrate.
“Breaking news. A plane just flew into the north tower of the World Trade Center.”
In shock, I pull over to the side of the road and stare at the radio. Not because I expect someone to crawl out of it, but in pure disbelief about what I’d just heard.
With a sharp snort, Bear opens his eyes and looks at me through an obvious haze of lingering dreams, “Wha’s wron’? Why we sto’in?”
Before I can answer, the current song on the radio is interrupted again, “It is confirmed, Flight 11 out of Boston has flown into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Please stay tuned. We will bring you more information as we get it.”
I whimpered a little as the surreal events seeped even deeper into my mind. The day that had started out as a bright, clear, cool fall day suddenly turned bitter, gray, and dim. Everything around me seemed to lean away from its neighbor, and the road began to dip and slither over the undulating ground. Nothing seemed to be permanent any more. Even Bear seemed to register that something terrible had happened.
“Did they just say that…” he trailed off, abruptly awake and fully aware of what was around us.
All I could do was mutely nod. I wasn’t crying yet – it hadn’t seeped in deep enough.”We have to get to a phone. I need to call the office.”
“Uh, huh. They’ll be putting out a special edition, that’s for sure.”
How I managed to get the rest of the way home without running into someone or running over someone I’ll never know. Even going through Speed Trap Central without getting a ticket was a miracle I chalk up to the fact I couldn’t have been driving over about forty five (speed limit through that little town was fifty-five).
When we hit Bear’s driveway, I didn’t bother grabbing my keys. I threw the truck in park and rushed through the door, grateful his work-at-home mother was already up. She seemed to know what I was looking for, even before I opened my mouth. She didn’t make me hunt through the stacks of newspapers she hoarded from her own days as a paper delivery driver, just held out the phone to me.
I frantically dialed the office. The phone rang once, “Hi. We have an unusually high call volume, can you hold a minute?”
“Sure…” I was cut off, and placed on hold.
Cherry had already turned on the TV, and I was mesmerized by the lousy muzak playing on the phone and the horrendous events starting to replay on the tube. Twenty minutes went by in a jittery shutter stop. Each frame individually acid etched into my memory. Each frame dulled and unintelligible from shock and disbelief. When I heard the “Thank you for waiting, how may I help you?” on the other end of the line I almost couldn’t answer.
“It… it… it’s Katy. From route 304.” I finally managed to stutter. “Is there word of a special edition?”
My words smoothed out as my mind shifted from soaking in the information to thinking about work. It was better, but still not up to my normal speed.
“Yes. We’re printing it now.”
“Thank you. Will you call me when the bundles are ready?”
“You won’t need to take a bundle drop. Each carrier has to come in and pick up their own for this one.”
That struck me as odd, especially since I had to go past my bundle drops to get to my route. “When will the bundles for 304 be ready?”
“How many do you want?”
I stopped to think. Normally I had 260 papers – that made 25 full bundles with 10 loose. But, I also knew that most of my customers would have already picked up a special edition by the time they got home. I ran through how many papers I’d need to fill my racks and came up with 75. “I’ll only need three.”
“We’ll call you when they are ready.”
I hung up, and decided to get a nap in while I waited. Even though it was barely ten o’clock, I’d been up all night wrangling papers, bags, rubber bands, and the truck through most of the route. And, for the last quarter, I’d been wrangling my partner’s desire to sleep as well.
I woke up again about two in the afternoon, and blinked at the world. Cherry was still glued to the TV, Bear was snoring hard enough to rattle the house from his room, and I had sprawled out around the various paper stuffed furniture that filled the living room.
“Any calls?” I yawned as I pushed myself back into a seated position.
“None. They did know to call you here, right?”
“Since that’s the only number on file, they’d better!” I snapped.
I could feel the foul temper from knowing there was a major disaster going on, and being unable to do anything to help. I also could feel the frustration beginning to boil – I had customers and racks that would want a copy of the special edition.
I fished around until I found the phone again, since Cherry had put it back on the base. When I called the office, I actually got through to distribution on the first try and didn’t have to wait.
“Hello, thank you for calling. How may I help?”
“This is Katy with route 304. Do you have my bundles ready?”
Oh, did I want to crawl through the phone line!
“The 4 special edition bundles that I ordered this morning.”
“We did not put out a special edition. If you are asking about tonight’s papers, we haven’t finished setting the press. Don’t expect any bundles to be ready until after midnight.”
I know this, you idiot! I also know what I was told this morning. “So, what printed this morning? When I called to find out if there would be a special because of the attack, I was told they were printing it then. That was around nine.”
“Oh, that was a special insert. We didn’t actually print a special edition.”
“Thanks.” I growled, and jabbed the phone’s hangup button.
“Hey now!” Cherry chided, “Don’t break my phone.”
“Sorry.” I said.
I handed the phone back to her and pushed myself to my feet. I could hear Bear’s TV, which meant he was up. I didn’t want to deal with him immediately, so I left to go walk around the block. The first place I stopped was the local grocery store I knew carried my paper. Out of curiosity, I glanced at the rack they had right up front.
Not the wisest decision.
Glaring at me from the top shelf of the paper stand was a – if you guess special edition, you’re right. I spun on my heel and stormed out. I didn’t bother nodding to the cashier who’d watched me enter. She knew me on sight, but had never been overly welcoming. Things were beginning to feel like I was on everyone’s radar to be kicked today. When I got back to Bear’s I was greeted at the door by a wall of angry voices. Not wishing to get in the middle of whatever argument he and his mom were having, I decided to go back to my apartment and see if it was ready for me to return yet. The management had decided it was a good idea to paint the interior of all the apartments, and gave the residents less than a day’s notice to make arrangements if we needed to.
When I walked in, I discovered why the painters had left my apartment unlocked. It was empty. Someone had come along and removed all of my big furniture. The only thing they left were my two travelling trunks I’d used to cart my costumes and tent while still part of the SCA. Thankfully, I’d managed to pack my clothes and keepsakes into those trunks to protect them from the paint.
“Hey now! Who are you?” demanded a male voice from the front door.
“I’m Katy. I live here.”
“Sorry missy, this was an abandoned apartment. It’s unoccupied.”
“What the …” I choked out.
I rummaged through my wallet and dug up last month’s electricity bill. Holding it out to the worker, “I beg to differ. This is my apartment!”
He checked a clip board, and looked at me, “Nope. It came vacant start of the month. If you were still here, you were squatting.”
Just what I needed to end my day. Not only was I fighting work, now I’d just discovered my landlord was a lying idiot. Thankfully, I’d been planning on moving, but the room I would be renting wasn’t available for another couple of months. So, now I just had to make arrangements for the time between now and then.
With a frustrated grunt, I fished out the pull handles for my trunks, set them up to daisy chain (which let me tell you wasn’t easy. Those things must have weighed four hundred pounds each packed as solid as they were.) and started tugging the wooden freight passed the shocked maintenance worker.
I carefully negotiated the stairs, after separating the two trunks so I could take them down individually.
It took me almost an hour to get the blasted things loaded in the truck bed – mostly because I had to move old papers to the cab, rather than the dumpster. The maintenance guy insisted on watching me until I left the property, and I didn’t want to risk getting a ticket for using a dumpster I didn’t have the right to use. (Though, frankly, I’d have risked it anyway, except every paper I returned was a refund on the bundles I took out each night.)
When I got back to Bear’s, things had calmed down enough I could make a couple of calls. I had to arrange someplace to store my things until I could get the new room. Cherry tried to be polite and offer to keep them, but there just wasn’t any room. Each one was almost five feet long, and a little over two feet wide. Full as they were, I could use them as a bed and not notice I wasn’t sleeping on a mattress.
By the time I’d made arrangements, dropped off the trunks, and returned to Bear’s it was time to start the hour long drive in to pick up the bundles for our bundle drops. That was when the second shoe dropped. The paper had taken us off our route and given it to someone else. They’d assigned us to one closer to home, supposedly for convenience. Somehow I doubt that. We’d had some trouble with complaints from customers at the end of the route – we weren’t getting the papers on the ground in time. What else were we supposed to do? When you have a two hundred and fifty mile route, six bundle drops (that have to be counted and signed for), and the office doesn’t get your papers to you until after four in the morning, it makes it kind of hard to get that last paper on the ground before six in the morning. Especially when you have to stop and stuff paper tubes, or duck up someone’s drive way, or edge along a “drive way” someone has carved into a sixty foot cliff (not to mention back down said driveway again), there’s almost no way to make the speed you have to have to cover the distance in that amount of time. Granted, my partner and I had become really good at hitting straight driveway throws (or the occasional porch paper throws) at thirty. Still, if you figure the distance and the speed, that’s still at least four hours of driving!
So, when someone asks me where I was on 9/11/01, I tell them I was in shock. Too many things mirroring the events unfolding in the news rippling in my personal life at the time. It took a while, but I think those quakes I dealt with then were what set me up for where I am now. And I think that what America faced then will do the same for her – it’s taking a while longer. Individuals can adapt quickly, but entire cultures and countries take a while longer to reach the same type of understanding.