Posted in family, history

Salt and Pepper


I remember where I was on September 11th, 2001. We’d come back from a wonderful visit with family in California barely a week before. I was still in its afterglow, as I was still in the long afterglow of four months in Budapest.

Fall was approaching, my favorite time of year. It was a beautiful, mild, sunny Midwest morning. I was relaxed. I was happy.

I came downstairs early, made my breakfast, sat on the sofa in the living room, and turned on the news to see smoke billowing out of the first tower and gawked in disbelief. A few minutes later, the phone rang.


New York.

Are you watching? Did you see it?  Her voice cracked. It always cracked. This time was worse.

Yes. I recognized the same crack in mine.

And we watched together, a thousand miles apart, as the second tower was struck, and gasped, together.

My mother didn’t cry much; but she cried that morning.


My husband rose about thirty minutes later.

The minute I heard him padding about, I rushed upstairs.

He took one look at me and knew something was wrong.

I think I told him to come down, eked out a few words about the towers, but I don’t remember what I said, exactly. I do know he didn’t linger on the second floor, checking his email, stretching, as he usually does. And I know that when he saw the screen, his face was a mirror of mine—tear-stained, stricken.

I tried to call my mother back, but the lines had gone down by then, so I sent emails to family and friends in New York, hoping they would be received, praying for one answer: We’re all right. We’re safe.


Later that afternoon, our spirits numbed by images of burning buildings and planes, we trod off to the grocery store—to replenish staples, get out, breathe.

Everywhere we walked, we saw our shock and grief reflected—in other cars, the parking lot, aisles, checkout counters. No one spoke much. No one smiled. People just shook their heads, sniffled, and sighed.


After dinner, my husband gave me a small package wrapped in newsprint, tied with a string.

I bought this for you a while ago, and was going to give it to you for Christmas; but I think you need it now.

Inside the wrapping were the milk glass salt and pepper shakers pictured above.

I know how much you love milk glass.


They are a fixture in my kitchen, those shakers, and have been since 9/11, a constant reminder of what preserves, and what burns— salt and pepper.

Both are filled with salt.

©2018 All Rights Reserved




Listening. Observing.

13 thoughts on “Salt and Pepper

  1. A very poignant piece and the last sentence makes it particularly so. I will never forget that afternoon (it was afternoon here). I was teaching and the television was on in the teachers room. Everybody was chatting, fussing, getting ready for class. Some of us suddenly saw the images on the screen. My first thought was ANOTHER ONE OF THOSE IDIOTIC DIASTER MOVIES, then it sank in and we starting telling others to be quiet. My plan of teaching the 3rd Conditional suddenly felt utterly redundant. I went into class and told the students what had happened and said that I would be teaching as planned but anyone wanting to go and watch the television coverage in the common room was welcome to do so. Everybody rushed out of the classroon. I followed, relieved, as I couldn’t face teaching at that moment.
    After classes, I went back home and, like so many others, remained glued to the TV for hours – days.
    Another thing I remember was how Londoners suddenly became friendlier for a few days. Strangers saying hello in the street. And then, a few times, people stopping in their tracks on the pavement when the sound of a plane was heard above our heads. We would stop, look up, then meet the anguish in the eyes of the person who’d been walking towards you in silent acknowledgement.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had a similar classroom experience to yours when John F. Kennedy was shot, only I was a very young student then. So sad, so shocking. People became nicer and friendlier here, too; for a time, we understood each other in our horror and grief. Thank you so much for sharing your memory, Katia, and for your kind words about mine. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I still had a tiny TV then. The UK news that morning ran an ongoing loop of the stupendous life images. I was struck by a mixture of horror and awe. The true horror took time to sink in. The awe was in reflection of the symbolic impact of these towers crumbling. While this sounds callous, it made the event all the more horrendous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It doesn’t sound callous to me at all, Ashen. I think many of us felt the same way, and there were those who commented on it publicly. People need symbols. Many thanks for your reflections. 🙂


  3. It was a rough day for all of us! I, too, watched as the second rower was hit, then drove to work in a daze to find my school locked down and panicky parents coming to retrieve their children. Many tears from teachers parents, and children who had family working at the World Trade Center. All victims Rest in Peace! All relatives and friends…hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Powerful, Barbara. Thank you for sharing it.

    I think we all remember where we were that morning; I know I do. I had just started a 12-hour day at the pharmacy, and I heard something on the radio about an airplane crash and the Twin Towers. I called my husband at the church and told him to turn on a TV, and for the first time ever, I turned on the TV we had in the pharmacy for instructional purposes. My tech and I were glued to the screen whenever there were no prescriptions to fill. We watched the second plane hit as well as when the towers fell. We could tell who knew just by their blank, terrified looks…it mirrored our own. Those who hadn’t heard were their typical selves. It was the longest day…and to this day, just seeing the images brings me to tears. One of the most poignant emails I received right after the attacks came from my tutor for a course I was taking in homeopathy. He is British, but his sympathy for all Americans, particularly me, moved me to tears as well, then and now. ~nan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a horrible day, Nan. I’m so glad you shared your memory of it, where you were, what you were doing…and the email. It’s incredible how seemingly small gestures of sympathy have such tremendous impact on us…especially coming when we need them most. Thank you. ❤


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