Monday, September 12, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Ten years ago I had just waded out of the Henry's Fork on the Ranch and walked back to my car for some lunch. There was one other fisherman standing by his car speaking on his cell phone. When he had finished he came over and asked if I had heard what had happened. I said I hadn't.

He began to tell me what he had learned from his wife who was watching a TV in their motel. He was half smiling, like he didn't know how he was supposed to feel, and he spoke almost apologetically, like he was sorry to be telling me such bad news. It was something about a plane crashing into one of the twin towers in New York City, then another plane crashing, then both towers coming down.

The breeze was whispering through the pines, the sun was warm on my back, an Osprey was calling somewhere over the river--and I couldn't make any sense out of what he was telling me. I asked him to repeat it, and slowly and heavily the reality sank in. I thanked him, and tuned in my car radio for any other information I could get. There were ongoing reports, and every word further confirmed the enormity of what had happened.

Completely forgetting lunch, I drove out to where I could get cell phone coverage and called my family in Chicago. The city was in a state of lockdown; there was still the fear that Chicago--any major city--could be next. But for the time being my family was safe.

I listened to more reports; the death toll continued to climb, the words "terrorist attack" were now being used, and the whole nation was in lockdown. I went back to the Ranch section and walked in at the Mailbox. The walk felt good. I wandered along the river, but my heart wasn't in the fishing. I sat down on the bank and sorted through what had happened. While I was sitting there I saw two more fishermen coming up the trail. I recognized them. It was my brother John and his friend Rob. They had left that morning to catch a flight in Idaho Falls. On the way they heard the news, called ahead, and learned that nothing was flying for the foreseeable future. So they came back.

The rest of that week we fished, but I can't remember the fishing. Mostly we stayed in touch with families, listened to more news reports, and waited to see what would happen. At some point flights began again and John and Rob left for home. I broke camp, packed up, and headed back to Chicago. It was there that I finally saw the images that have been seared into the minds of everyone who lived through that day.

So it was at the Henry's Fork that the tragedy and triumph of 9/11 began for me. Now, every time I go back to that river, I remember.

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