As I travel East on Route 60 just beyond the Glen Ferris Inn I’m struck by the sky above the Three Rivers. I have always been a Sky wathcher. As a little kid I’d run outside every time I heard an airplane and look for the contrails. Today I still look up and count the contrails. But eighteen years ago my world changed.
I was working as a framer in a prefab home plant. The housing bubble was just in the early stage of collapse but the company managed to give us enough work to keep the machines running. We kept a radio up at full volume but you couldn’t really hear the music well over all saws and nail guns. We were working steadily but not hard because we wanted to try and get in a full shift. Suddenly all the machinery stopped. A slight feeling of panic washed over me because the last time this happened there had been a life threatening injury on the floor. I looked up to see who had pushed the emergency stop button and why. There was no blood on the floor and that was a slight relief. Then the voice on the radio announced that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. We switched over to NPR to hear more news just in time to hear that news announcer say “Write this date down.”. One of my coworkers knelt down and wrote in the sawdust. 911, Emergency. At this point we thought about the Hindenburg going down in flames. Then the second plane hit. I was in denial and having been allowed to shadow a radar operator as a kid I said that this was some kind of routing error. Then, the Pentagon was hit. The plant manager called for an extended break so everyone could gather their thoughts and deal with the fact that we were suddenly at war on our own land. The crew moved out of the plant and into the lumber yard. I looked up to see the deepest blue sky in my entire life. The crystal blue was completely unbroken by clouds and contrails. The old gospel song Uncloudy Day began to play in the back of my mind and I felt the peace of God replace those unsteady feelings. I wasn’t really sure what the future would hold but I knew that it would be okay.
It wasn’t long after that when they closed the plant but every year on September Eleventh when the T.V. shows those images again and those who were closer to Ground Zero tell their stories I can smell the sawdust and see that deep blue sky. And I can hear Uncloudy Day in my mind and spirit.
The sky is full of contrails once again. Even though I look forward to the Uncloudy Day spoken of in the song I’m comforted by the sight of passenger jets roaring through the sky.
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