Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
Crumbled But Not CrushedIt was a typical chaotic morning, the standard loud rush and running and ravings of everyone moving in opposite directions trying to get at their various obligations for the day amidst the obstacles of phone calls, a clueless underfoot dog, and wheelchair foot pedals, etc. All was normal. I was getting ready to leave for work, and if I didn’t leave within a few minutes I would undoubtedly be tardy. That is, tardy by my standards - I wouldn’t be sufficiently early enough before my scheduled start time to get my act together as desired. I was heading out the door as Mom was returning from somewhere. She looked upset and told us to turn on the television because she had just heard that a plane had crashed into The World Trade Center. As expected, that news hit the rest of us with a horrifying punch and the house became momentarily silent. What a horrible accident! Hopefully not too many lives would be lost - but it can’t really be expected that there would be any survivors on that plane, and certainly some innocent lives in the Center near the point of impact would be lost as well. These were my initial thoughts as I quickly glanced at the terrifying photo footage of the plane hitting the first Tower and slowly went out to the garage in a somber mood. We turned the radio on in the van for the short distance to the Central Floral Design building where I worked. I remember that I didn’t focus too much more on the broadcast playing out before us because my mind was selfishly obsessed on getting to my desk and setting up to start the work day. As I pulled into the parking lot, the breaking news was that another plane had hit the other Tower. All of us coworkers and friends gathered together that day were absolutely stunned into a nonfunctioning mass of observers. This was definitely no accident. Who knows how many lives would be taken before this murderous act had reached completion. Within minutes of entering our building, the gruesome ongoing television pictures and footage of the toppling towers, the once sunny sky being completely wiped out by the ashes and wreckage and devastation below, and the indescribable expressions of horror and fear written upon every face on the screen, indicated that life without a doubt would never be the same for anyone in the United States of America again. Our eyes and ears and hearts and souls were stricken permanently with sensations many of us had never remotely experienced before. But spreading before us - unseen and powerfully present - from beyond that sea of demise at Ground Zero on that dreaded day, was the breath of opportunity for growth and unification and support and victory . From coast to coast we Americans joined together gulping in large quantities of that Spirit-filled fresh hopeful air, and through countless expressions of strength and courage and heroism beyond description we became one force determined to overcome and rebuild. We have, and we will continue to triumph over tragedy!
As reports came in on further attacks at the Pentagon and a crash at a nearby Pennsylvania field, I’m sure I was not alone in thinking, “Where will the next target be?”. “What city will be next on the list?” And, “Who that is near and dear to me will be senselessly taken from my life on this day?” I was already grieving for the families of those growing numbers of deceased that I’d never even met. If I was that emotionally touched by their passing, how would I even begin to be able to cope if this war of terrorism hit me and my loved ones more directly? Was this the way the world was going to end for us,… today? I wasn’t even prepared. There were so many wrongs I still had to right in my life, so much unfinished business. What a wake-up call! I desperately needed someone to pray with. I remember trying on several occasions to track down my boss to see if she could spare a few minutes to say part of the Rosary together or something along those lines. But needless to say she was deeply involved in trying to maintain some semblance of order in the business, and was either on the phone heavily engaged in conversation or elsewhere in the building. I’m sure she too, along with people everywhere, was whispering her own prayer intentions and imploring the Lord’s protection on all of us as she persevered through her normal daily tasks as manager on that highly abnormal day.
For all practical purposes the phones remained quiet on that day. Aside from the constant interaction that each of us maintained when husbands, or mothers, or sisters or other family members called to get or give updates and to see how we were doing, very few customers called in. This was as it should be, I felt. There were far more important things to concern ourselves with than ordering flowers. We were a nation hit by an unfathomable act of hatred. The last several hours had been spent riding on a rapid, unrelenting roller coaster of feelings - I was scared, sickened, overwhelmingly sad, and angry. I sat at my desk with my headset on during a slight lull in discourse with the others in the phone room. I was saying a silent prayer when my phone rang. I answered it thinking it was someone else checking in on us. I was greeted with, “Hi, I’d like to place an order. I want to send some flowers to my friend who is in the hospital. Delivery please.” I was numb with disbelief. Was this woman for real?! Did she have any idea what was going on this morning? I stammered some rote response with an uncharacteristic hint of irritation in my voice. I made some reference to the happenings on that morning. “Yes“, she replied, her tone indicating that she too had been deeply impacted by today’s terrorist attacks. After all, how could she not be? But, she gently went on to explain to me that a very good friend of hers was in the hospital on this very day and not feeling well. I learned a valuable lesson from this woman - in essence, this little gesture of sending her friend a bright and cheery, hopeful and happy bouquet of flowers could be the one thing that would make a difference in her friend’s healing. She was absolutely right! The days would continue, and life would go on as normal. But as a new normal. A regular day, where we followed routine, but now with a heightened awareness of what is really important in life, and with the realization of how individual works of mercy and love can potentially bring about an unlimited amount of healing and recovery to a wounded nation of people. By fixing the parts, we can restructure the whole. I turned in my extremely short order log sheet as usual when my shift ended. Across the top, above my name, I penciled in “Deliver us from evil. Amen!”
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