Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Eleven 11ths

I keep better track of JB these days. This minute, for example.
On this day, I'm reposting something I wrote last year on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. This story is actually set three days afterward, on September 14, 2001. My partner, JB, was (and still is) a flight attendant and was originally scheduled to complete a domestic rotation and return home the afternoon of the 11th.

JB was just about to depart Las Vegas when word came that all flights were grounded. At the time I didn't know where he was, I only knew he was out there somewhere. That I was relieved to hear his voice on the phone later that morning seemed too obvious for words. My goal was to write something that properly expressed my feelings of relief and gratitude from that time.



9/14


Most of the guests had already arrived and more were still trickling in. One thing I liked about that apartment on Greenwood was how spacious it was, but now it was feeling rather cramped. With all the cars parked along the street and guests still arriving, it was going to be hard to pull this party off as a surprise.

I was amazed at the turnout considering the short notice. The invite had only gone out that afternoon. I was overwhelmed by this display of love and generosity, and I said a silent prayer of thanks to God for bringing such wonderful friends into my life. Into our life.

But I also realized they probably needed this get-together as much as I did, and I think they were grateful for the opportunity to celebrate. This was backed up by the fact many of my friends brought guests, some of whom I was meeting for the first time. I'd told my friends they could bring guests, but I honestly never expected even half of them to show up at eleven o'clock on a Thursday night. Yet every single one of the friends I invited was there, plus some new ones.

Some people brought food, others carried bottles of wine and cartons of beer. My friend Laura, ever the leader, took charge organizing the food into an inviting buffet. Hot Toddy, of course, took on the job of bartender without waiting to be asked.

I took the phone call outside on the deck, hoping JB wouldn't hear the sounds of a lively party going on inside the home we shared. Despite feeling I've lost all control over the event, I still wanted it to be a surprise to him. After hanging up, I rejoined the party. "Ten minutes!" I shouted over the music. This seemed to ramp the party up another notch as I grabbed the cold beer Toddy held out for me.

I gave up any notion of trying to turn off the lights or shouting "Surprise!". I decided it would be enough just for JB to walk in on this amazing spectacle. And the look of bewilderment on his face when he came through the door told me we'd hit a home run.

JB always looks handsome in his flight attendant uniform, even at the end of a long trip. And this one was longer than most. He let go of his rolling suitcase to wipe away tears with the back of his hand as one friend after another welcomed him home with hugs. Toddy put a glass of wine in JB's hand.

It was one of the funnest and happiest parties I'd ever been to, let alone hosted. And it was over in the blink of an eye, with the last of the guests leaving by 1am. Most of them had to work in the morning, after all. When it was just myself and JB, I wrapped my arms around him and, for the first time since hearing his voice on Tuesday afternoon, lost my composure. "Don't ever do that to me again!" I said into his shoulder, half laughing and half sobbing, my tears absorbing into his starched white shirt.

"I sure hope not!" It wasn't much of a promise, but it was the best he could do. I knew he wasn't about to quit the job he loved so much, and I was proud of him for that. I was just glad he was finally home. Three days later than scheduled, but he was home.

Hard to believe that party was ten years ago today.



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