14 years ago I woke up, took a shower and started my commute into work as normal. Half-way down the canyon from my cottage in the Santa Cruz mountains, I heard on the radio a woman saying "how will I explain this to my children?!?!".
In the time it took to make it to the gas station I realized that something horrible happened, but I did not know what it was. When I went to pay the attendant, I asked what the news was. She said that there was a terrible accident and that a plane crashed into a tower in NY.
I finished filling up and continued my drive into work not yet realizing the significance of that singular event.
During the next hour, I came to realize, along with the rest of the country, that it was no accident. After the first plane crash, there was another and another and another. Reality as I knew it had become unimaginable and unreal.
I got a call from my mother with advice to lay low and stay away from public places. I knew then it was serious and very real. Fear.
For the remainder of the day my colleagues and I were rivited to the TV in the conference room. No work was done that day. Our priority was to make sense of the senslesss, comfort each other, and decide if it was safe to be where we were or not.
In the end, we decided to stay at the office together and try to be "normal" as much as we could. We had colleagues that were trying to fly back home from the east coast. There were many calls made to account for everyone, then hurried arrangements to change their rout home from air to ground transport before all the rental cars and trains got booked up.
For the first time ever, the sounds from the sky were eerily silent.
At the end of the work-day, accomplishing nothing in the office, I drove home, sat on my couch and cried and cried and cried. I lamented for people I did not know, but who were like family for their unique place in the US society. I could not comprehend the shear destruction and the lives lost in mere minutes, on US soil. A safe place far away from wars.
I cried and blindly searched for my viola that was un-touched for decades while I watched the horror of the day's events play over and over on national TV.
With ears alone, I tuned my viola, tightened and rosined the bow and placed the bow to the string - first on open strings then timidly picking out a tune from my childhood from memory - Amazing Grace. A few days later I heard the Barber Adagio on TV and sang along with tearful triumph.
Two years later I traveled overseas on business and took my viola with me on the off-chance I might have time to re-explore my childhood passion for music. I took lessons again, and eventually over the years learned to play the Barber, all the Bach cello suites, and many others.
On that day 14 years ago I learned that life can be cut short. I realized that there was more to life than sleep-work-sleep. Living life and pursuing passions every day like it was my last became a priority.
14 years later, I'm still playing viola. Lessons, practice, ensembles. I play as if today was my last day to play. It should be the best I can do.
I'll never forget.
Previous entries: July 2015
Mendy Smith is from League City, Texas. Biography
Please consider supporting Violinist.com by becoming a sponsor, and reaching our dedicated community of violin professionals, students and fans!