Under attack, a girl wants her mother

It is 6:45 a.m. and the telephone is ringing insistently. Let the voice mail pick it up, I tell my sleepy self. It keeps ringing and ringing and ringing. Outside, jackhammers are pounding and my dog, alerted by all the commotion, is making the dangerous circle move.

"Dammit," I mutter to no one and check my brand new voice mail service.

"Mom - hey, you got voice mail, nice going. I am sorry to call so early, but we're under attack," says my daughter's disembodied voice.

I am sleepy and confused, so I call Oregon.

"Hi, it's mom."

"Are you watching television?" Kate asks.

"No, I am sleeping."

"A plane crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon," she tells me.

I flip on the television and, together - even though we are 600 miles apart - we watch Matt and Katie, Tom, Dan and the folks at CNN.

By telephone, we just keep saying to each other, "Oh, my God."

We worry about our friend and Kate's high school classmate Christina, who is a student at New York University and living just a few blocks from what used to be the twin towers.

We look over the ruined Manhattan skyline we visited just weeks ago. Like the rest of the world, we can't believe what we're seeing.

I spend about 45 minutes on the phone with her, as shocked as she is and

wondering how the rest of this infamous Tuesday will unfold. I have friends who work at Associated Press in New York City. I can't help but imagine what I would be doing if I were there.

But the story is here on the telephone, too. And on my street where road repairs continue.

I make coffee. My dog insists on being fed.

I call Christina's mother who tells me in a very soft-spoken voice that

Christina is OK. By some miracle, she was able to call. Christina's roommate saw one of the airplanes crash into the World Trade Center. They went to class briefly, planned to go for coffee, then decided they "needed something stronger" after witnessing the collapse of the World Trade Center.

I call my sister in Ohio. It's 10:45 a.m. there and much closer to the

action. My 29-year-old niece Sara is there with her, very shaken. Sara went to work, then left and went to her mother's. My sister thinks the bomb was probably the work of "Oksana Baiul" or whatever that guy's name is. We both laugh. Oksana is the Olympic skater.

We're thinking of Osama Bin Laden, the all-purpose terrorist and fall guy. Who knows? It might be him.

I call Merrie and Andy in Genoa to let them know Christina is OK. They are huddled around the radio because they don't have television. How did you know? I asked. Andy's brother called. They'd heard a plane crashed in Cleveland, too. Nobody knows what's going on. I invite Merrie over, but she has to stay home because this is the day they scheduled the cable television installer. I tell her I love her, she says "I love you" back.

I even try to call my ex-husband, also an Associated Press reporter in the Reno bureau.

His line is busy. I imagine he's working on this amazing event which touches us all whether we're in New York, Oregon, Ohio, or Northern Nevada.

Over and over again, I watch those towers crumble. It's like the movies, only it's real.

The sky outside my window is an odd leaden gray for a September morning in Nevada.

This must be smoke from the wildfires, but it could just as easily have come from a plane crash or a terrorist attack on the Douglas County Courthouse.

I worry about my co-workers Rick in Africa and Karl in Greece. How will they get home?

I don't even know when they are coming back. I know it won't be today.

The enormity of this event slowly sinks in. If people who are a lot smarter than I am can't prevent this from happening, how am I supposed to protect my daughter when she's 600 miles away and I only have a half a tank of gas in my Jeep?

I long for her and fear for her safety. This isn't over. We're suspended.

I call her back. She's decided to cut Spanish class. Her other two classes for the day? History and the sociology of deviant behavior. I tell her to go. She's living history today.

She will forever remember what she was doing on Sept. 11, 2001. We hang up after lots of "I love yous."

I think about going to church. I could make 8 a.m. Mass. Instead, I spend an hour writing this column. Then, I call the office to see if I should come in early. I promise myself I'll go to church tomorrow - if I am still here.

Sheila Gardner is the night news desk editor for the Nevada Appeal.


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