Like most bloggers, I find the events of September 11 an almost irresistible topic. I’d like to write about some of them now: the factors that led up to the events of the day, some of its consequences. I’m going to touch on people, religion, life and death. It’s a story that spans continents and decades.
But it’s not about bin Laden. No, nor is it about Allende. This predates both of those events.
One day, the Catholic society at Stanford University needed some paperwork collated and stapled. The committee members roped in everyone they could ethically coerce: roommates, friends, acquaintances. Among them was a tall lanky guy from San Jose, with thick brown hair that showed red when the sun shone on it and clear blue eyes. Another of the staplers was a vivacious girl from Southern California, with rich brown eyes and dark hair. The students talked while they worked, and these two hit it off. The Palo Alto sunshine seemed a little brighter, the campus a little more beautiful, by the time the work was over.
Then he vanished.
But a letter came before the plot of their story could be diverted from its course, before she forgot him, before he became a might-have-been. He had been an alternate for a course of study in France, and one of the students had a medical ban on travel. She read the airmail letter (the texture and sound of the thin, crackly airmail paper held a nostalgic quality for her for years afterward), and all the ones that followed it. But their relationship was new, and contact dropped off.
He came back just before she herself was scheduled to go abroad, studying in Germany, so they had a little time to re-establish their connection. Then she went away. And this time the correspondence didn’t drop off. The letters got longer, and deeper, the two opened their hearts to one another and discovered, as fortunate souls do, that the more they gave of themselves, the more they had to give. They must have suspected, early on, that they were engaged in something serious. By the time she returned, they knew.
So on September 11, 1966, they married. It was a date that was significant only to them and their families, passing unnoticed in the headlines of the day.
They joined the counterculture and grew their hair. She got pregnant in time to keep him from being drafted. They loved being parents, loved their son. Soon they had another baby, which may have eased her grief at her mother’s untimely death from breast cancer. They bought some land and built a cabin on it, though they never ended up living there. They moved around a lot, working at various jobs, raising their kids and enjoying the glory of youth. They lived in a commune for a time. He bought a printing press; she painted. They worked on cars and raised their kids. Her father passed away.
Eventually, they both ended up in law school. For each of them, in their own ways, the practice of law was a vocation. And their other vocation grew as well – they had two more children when their first set was reaching adolescence. He lost his father to prostate cancer. The older kids went to college just as the younger ones were starting school. Their second child, a daughter, even went to Europe during university, studying for a year in Scotland. They visited her when they returned to the Continent for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.
Their elder children each married, and have since had kids of their own. His mother died suddenly, of a stroke, earlier this year. The younger children are both in their twenties, one currently studying in Prague, the other living in the Bay Area. The consequences of that September day flow on, in the lives of us their seven descendants, our spouses, our friends. For us, in the family, this is still the real September 11.
Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad.