I live in Southeastern Pennsylvania, in a sleepy little town called Leesport. It's roughly 15 miles North of Reading (yes, like the railroad) and it's claim to fame is its Farmer's Market. A far cry from my birthplace, Staten Island, NY. I moved here to SE Pennsylvania in 1990 to escape NYC .... the dirt, the noise, the crowds, the hustle, the bustle. I was in search of peace, of serenity, of a slower pace & a better life.
I found what I was looking for here .... I lived for a time in a restored 1 room hunting cabin nestled in the trees. It was beautiful no matter what the season ....in summer it was warm & green, humming with insect sounds; in spring it was full of new life & smelling of clean freshness; in autumn it was crisp & bright, the leaves even more vivid & in winter it was a Currier & Ives postcard, complete with sled tracks in the snow. I so enjoyed living there in my single days....just me, my fur babies & my yarn (the ever present yarn-where would I be without it?!) I never once missed NYC ... the few friends I'd had there had moved on & we'd lost contact. Every once in a while I'd get an email from a former co-worker or an occasional holiday greeting from a high school acquaintance but that was it. People in my new life were constantly amazed by how much I didn't want to visit NYC on bus trips or shopping/sightseeing/theater excursions. I was joyful to have finally found what I'd sought. My Mother & 2 sisters had followed me to this peaceful corner of the world so even that last tie holding me to the city was cut.
I was in my car on the way to work on September 11th, 2001 listening to Howard Stern. I thought it was a joke at first when I heard the reports of the attack on the towers (one must consider my source). I got to work and watched it unfold on CNN ... stunned & heartbroken as the 2nd plane hit on live TV. It was a bad dream sequence in a B movie....things moved in half time, a fog swirl in my head. This could not be real ... this was NYC...things like this happened far away, in other places....places where I had no connection. It got worse as the day went....the unimaginable happened when the Towers fell. We were all stunned.
Work stopped that day for us, like it did for millions. The office closed early and we all went home, moving like zombies. I called Mom & the sisters, needing to hear them, to know they were OK. Katie had visited Windows on the World only the month before and while I knew she was far from it, I needed to hear her voice. We did what every family did that night...we drew each other as close to us as we could in any way that we could.
As I watched the TV coverage long into the night I began to feel something I'd not felt in 10 years .... I missed home. I missed the noise, the crowds, the traffic, the heart of it all. In the midst of all that carnage & horror I wanted nothing more than to get in my car & head for the Verrazano. I knew all at once what it meant to be a New Yawker .... to feel that pull of home.
I didn't head for the city as I'd wanted. Instead, I took out my hooks & my yarn & stitched. That night & for long nights afterward I stitched through tears & heartache, watching TV. I looked for familiar faces amongst the ash & smoke and saw no one that I knew but with each one I saw me & mine. I missed my home, true, but that longing was tempered with relief....relief that we were here.
For the last few weeks I've been listening to Brenda Dayne's podcast, Cast On. Her "Sense of Place" series has ended but for me has just begun. I've discovered that my home is not in bricks or mortar, nor in smoke or ash. I will always miss my birth home but I've just only recently realized that the old cliche really is true...home IS where the heart is.
The 5 year anniversary will be full of memorials & tributes, homages to fallen heroes & songs of loss and sorrow. I will think of that day & shed tears on those we've lost. I will miss my birthplace to be sure but I will be grateful for finally finding my true Sense of Place .... my little place of belonging....no matter if it's here in this little sleepy town or amongst the din of the city. My heart knows its sense of place ... when my family is with me, in person or in spirit ....I am truly HOME.