There's a photo of all of us, from Before That Day. It was late August, 2001, Stowe, Vermont. The day couldn't have been more gorgeous - lapis blue skies, hot sun, emerald grass, and the Green Mountains. We were there for our friend Becki's wedding to the handsome Chris, carefree with sunshine and celebration, old college friends, reuniting, reliving.
We're sitting on a small, grassy slope. Bare feet, bare legs, baseball caps, sunglasses, t-shirts, grins. We are probably hung over, just a little. I have gauze bandages on a knee and a hand, from a klutzy stumble on a running path the day before. Foster has some stubble on his face, but his eyes sparkle. There is smartassery and raucous laughter, so much laughter. We lean and drape casually on each other, comfortable as worn puzzle pieces in our years of friendship. Despite the pain from my road-rashed hands and knee, I can't stop smiling. I am among my best friends - I need nothing more.
It is the last time we were together, Before. It was the last time we were more whole, not so broken, not so scarred, not so recovering.
Most of us had been at another Middlebury wedding, Duffy and Maya's, just the weekend before, in Telluride, Colorado. And now, here we were all again, in the state of our alma mater, Duffy and Maya included, for more champagne and celebration, and mountains, and best friends. An abundance of riches and luck and love. It was another amazing wedding weekend, over too soon. We are the golden ones, shot through with sun. It is as perfect as it gets.
We will never be together like that again.
The next time we are all together, not even a month later, it is After, and we are huddled in a box pew in the Old First Church, Bennington, Vermont, listening to Foster's voice crack with grief and horror as he eulogizes his brother, Peter, killed on September 11, 2001, on United Flight 175, the second plane crashed into the World Trade Center in New York by terrorists. We clutch sodden tissues and each other, sobbing, because Foster's voice and his grief are nearly unbearable.
We are broken, scattered about the country and the globe, wandering, searching, exhausted, trying to turn to each other for comfort, but none of us have anything good to give.
Duffy's law firm almost doesn't survive; it was in one of the towers, but everyone got out alive. Peter and Foster's force-of-nature mother, Sally, is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Half of us are unemployed, flailing. My boyfriend of several years breaks up with me. We grieve. Becki and I crash our friendship into a wall of resentment and need; we won't be able to fix it until years later. Foster throws himself into work, leaving Janine feeling abandoned, running the household and caring for their three boys alone during the week. I date someone else whose cousin was at Cantor Fitzgerald, and was killed. We can't escape it - it has touched too many that we know. Steve and Paula move to Germany; Duffy and Maya to San Francisco, Rick to Los Angeles, Terra to Salt Lake City. Becki and her husband Chris get divorced. Foster's mother succumbs to ovarian cancer. Janine and Foster's marriage finally falls utterly apart. Spats fester. Rifts grow. We splinter. We try to heal. We try to start over. We reconcile. We wish. We always remember.
We miss you, Peter Morgan Goodrich. As always, I think about you, and your mother Sally Goodrich, on this day, and on other, better days too.
Please also read more here: "An Eye For An Eye" - the only 9/11 story I have to tell.