Everything Was Oddly the Same

Krista Lukas

- September 12, 2001, Nevada

Bells rang at 8:30, noon, and three o’clock.
I taught my fourth graders, ate an orange at recess.
After school, I drove toward the swim center.
It was my routine: Wednesday, laps.
What else should I have done?

But on the highway, same as that morning
going to school, I felt some difference,
a camaraderie with other drivers.
We’d been hijacked, all of us, never
having imagined such a thing.
No one knew what would happen next.

Checking in at the pool, the woman in front of me
was out of cash. She dug through her purse—nothing
I would notice on a normal day. On a normal day,
I would stand there and wait.

But it was September the twelfth.
All planes were grounded, firefighters stood
on the sidewalk collecting money, people lined up
around city blocks to open their veins.
I had only watched news and news, gotten up
in the morning, packed a lunch, and gone to school,
where I said nothing to my students, who said nothing to me.
Across the continent, wreckage was smoldering.

I thought maybe I should live differently.
That moment—at the register, at the pool—
felt like a small chance. The woman out of cash
had barely begun to search her purse
when I said, “I’ll pay.”
And to the clerk, “Take it off my punch card.”
No, no, said the woman.
“Yes, I’ll get it.” I held out my card.

The three of us looked at each other, the woman, the clerk, and I.
Our lives, at least, had been spared.
“Never mind.” The clerk dropped his gaze
and waved us in. “You both go free.”