ASSOCIATES (vol. 8 no. 2, November 2001) -

Library Life:
A Column of Eclectic Rantings


Katie Kintner

I know this column is late but I have an excuse. The world changed on September 11.

September was a time for a lot of changes. I started a new job at the University of Illinois English Library as a temporary library clerk but then quit when a permanent job at the U. of I. Communications Library landed in my lap. Having to learn two new jobs in one month was a jarring change, especially after nine months of luxurious if not prosperous unemployment.

In anticipation of having a place in the world outside the home again and with it, more money coming in, I took a week off in between jobs. Hubby and I hopped into our 98 Ford Windstar mini-van and headed off to Verona, New York, for one of his many broadcasting conferences. This particular conference was being held at a luxurious hotel/casino and I planned to have a great time at the slots or pool while hubby was toiling away in workshops and seminars, enhancing his professional worth.

The trip was a long one by car. Cleveland, Ohio marked our approximate halfway point, so we decided to stop at a hotel southeast of the city and spend the night. The next morning was September 11. The sun shone down on Cleveland as brightly as it did New York City that morning. The sky was bluer than any day I can remember. In fact, if that day was a car and you were my dad, you would be saying that it was a day made on a Wednesday. You see, my dad preferred to buy cars assembled on a Wednesday because he thought that by Wednesday, autoworkers had recovered from their weekend of partying and were not yet anticipating the next weekend. A car built on Wednesday would stay beautiful and last a long time. In other words, Sept. 11 was a beautiful, well-made day.

As usual, hubby hopped out of bed early and prepared to go down to the hotel's continental breakfast (he can't pass up anything that's "free"). I am always a little bit slower when I don't have to go to work, but I managed to get up and dress so that we could go eat breakfast together.

The hotel dining room had a television but it was tuned to ESPN, where the announcers there were talking about sports events from the night before. We ate cold cereal, muffins, juice and coffee, then got up to go back to our room and prepare to check out.

While we were in the elevator, apparently the world fell apart. When we got back to our room, hubby turned on TV while I brushed my teeth. All I could hear from him was something like "a plane hit the World Trade Center!" Figuring it was probably a small plane with an inexperienced pilot, I finished brushing my teeth, then went to see what he was talking about. The screen showed us the aftermath of a terrifying event, but surely it must have been an accident. We sat on the bed staring at the set for a few moments, shocked and numbed by what we saw. Then to the world's horror, the second plane flew into the shot and repeated the deadly performance on the second tower.
The airports were now closed and all flights were grounded. Planes in the air were being routed to the nearest airport.

We couldn't stay much longer in the hotel so we continued packing, knowing that we should probably just turn northwest and go to my mother's house in Michigan instead of the conference. Hubby called the conference organizers to be sure but no one knew any thing, so we just planned on proceeding east. While I packed the bathroom, hubby heard a plane overhead and looked out the window. "That plane must be turning back to the airport," he remarked as he saw a plane making a broad sweeping turn and heading back east. A short time later, we heard the news about United Flight 93 crashing in western Pennsylvania. We will never really know if that was the plane he saw.

We got the car packed and were on the road again, radio tuned to WTAM in Cleveland, a "Clear Channel" news/talk station (when you are married to a broadcast engineer, you start to talk like that). We got as far as a rest stop near Erie, Pennsylvania when our cell phone rang. It was the conference organizers to tell us the conference was cancelled.

That was ok with us--we would rather be at my mom's house anyway. We got back on the highway, this time heading back the way we came. At a restaurant just east of Cleveland, we heard the words for the first time from another restaurant patron: "we are at war".

The trip through downtown Cleveland at rush hour was eerie. Downtown workers had already departed for home, sporting events were cancelled and the streets were deserted. I have never gotten through Cleveland so fast before.
We continued on to Michigan where, west of Lansing, we had to stop and get gas. The prices were up to $1.99 (and well over in some spots) and we had trouble finding a waiting line short enough. If we had to wait too long, we would have to ask others in line to help push our car to the pump. Exasperated, we watched people in giant gas guzzling SUVs filling up gas can after gas can while others used any container they could find. When it finally came to be our turn, I'm certain our car was running on fumes but we managed to get to the pump and fill up.

It was well after dark before we arrived at my mom's house in Greenville, but after a day of horror and uncertainty, it felt good to be somewhere where we could be with family and recharge our batteries a little bit. We spent the next few days there, then with gas prices back down to reasonable rates, headed home the following Sunday. I was to start my new job the next day and would be glad to get some respite from the dark events that kept unfolding.

However, since then world events have been one uncertain thing after another. The Communications Library subscribes to dozens of newspapers, which I am expected to check in and scan for articles relevant to media, journalism, communications technology and advertising every day. The mail for the entire department comes to me, so I have learned to tolerate latex gloves and that filter masks are useless against any tiny airborne spores that may "poof" out at me. The library also has a newsroom complete with two televisions that are tuned to cable news channels and a WebTV monitor with a BBC news crawl at the bottom of the screen.

So, have I had a respite from the state of the world? Not hardly! But I have a job where I'm welcome, a safe home, good food to eat and a loving family so I am much more fortunate than many others in this world. I hope you have the same and I wish all of you a safe and blessed holiday season.

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