Tuesday I was driving down I-25, a gentle rain pattering against the van. In the back seat, Tre and Max were anxiously squinting out the windows at the clouds. A cool May rain is not usually cause for concern, but we were on our way to watch the Rockies play the Braves. Newly introduced to the concept of “called on account of rain,” the boys were busy fretting over the sky.
“There’s a light patch over there!” announced Max.
“I think I see blue sky…I DO!” said Tre. I nodded at the tiny patch of blue, but had to follow with a cautionary,
“True…but it IS still raining, guys.”
I switched on the radio to listen for updates on the weather or game and flipped through the talk stations. I found a station I used to listen to, years ago. It HAS been some time, because I was surprised to hear Rush Limbaugh. Since when was he on this station? Ah well. I left it on, waiting for the news and weather. Rush was discussing the United Air Lines pension pull out, but he interrupted himself.
“The White House and capitol building have been evacuated,” he explained. He went on to talk about Secret Service agents yelling at people to run from the buildings, and reports of unidentified aircraft.
Traffic slowed as the rain accelerated. While my van crept forward in time with the other cars, I listened to the details. Lord, have mercy, I whispered, turning off the back speakers to put some distance between this story and the boys.
My mind started recalling images. Super-imposed over the traffic ahead of me was playing a slideshow of 9/11. Planes flying into the World Trade Center, people scrambling in a panic away from the smoking Pentagon, a charred, debris strewn hole in a field in Pennsylvania. That day I saw footage of the first plane hit while I was sitting on the couch, one arm around a sleepy six year old Tre. He’d been watching The Magic School Bus when the Special Report screen cut in. I waited to see what the story was – something I’ll never do again with a child by my side.
I became aware that I was gripping the steering wheel tightly, leaning in to hear the latest details.
And then, just like that, it turned out to be nothing. Some single-engine plane wandered into the wrong area and upset everyone.
The traffic cleared, although the sky didn’t, and the boys, Dad and I sat through six very cold, wet innings. It was lots of fun (and the Rockies carried on to win – wooHOO). I sat there, with rain dripping off my chin, explaining to Max what little I know about baseball.
When the news had turned out to be nothing, just some guy off his flight plan, I felt a bit foolish for a moment. Here I’d been, imagining a huge threat to national security, and it was nothing.
But it did occur to me, as I watched the baseball game and helped Max hide his popcorn under his shirt in a vain attempt to keep it dry, that when it turned out to be ok, my first thought wasn’t, “Oh, good. We’re safe.”
It was, “Oh good. We’re safe…for today.”