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Abigail B. Calkin

A Blog of Flashbacks

What Does This Dream Mean?

October 2022

I spent part of my time growing up in New York City's Greenwich Village. On Wednesday morning, September 5, 2001, I had a dream I wrote down as soon as I woke.

What does this dream mean?

In a small town in Kansas, I stood outside. Looking up at the sky, I saw a bright flash just below the sun. It must have been a bit of a hazy day, for I could look that closely to it. It had the brightness of the moon, maybe more. Immediately beneath it I saw a huge flash of red about half its size. Alarmed, I looked around but no one else seemed to see it. I quickly looked back and saw two planes separate and fly in opposite directions. After, they left the area but were still barely visible, a huge cloud formed and continued to expand. It was not mushroom in shape but definitely hostile. It spread exponentially till it came to the ground south of town.

Several paragraphs later still recording the dream, Robert was in his Class A Army uniform. A superior officer, a colonel or general, handed him his orders. In the dream I remembered thinking ‘So Robert will get to go to his third war. This is a very serious situation, probably involving the Middle East. When they want him, they’ll haul him out of retirement.’

When I woke up, I remembered that Mary Beth and I, ending our weeklong kayaking and camping trip up the East Arm of Glacier Bay, had our challenges packing up in the rain, but did that rate such a violent dream? Writing down the dream, I wondered why I would predict that.

We kayaked ten miles in rain and fog without stopping. We seemed compelled to get to our next camping spot at Adams Inlet and set up tents, eat, sleep, and find out from the boat crew what had happened in the world. We left late, 2:30, paddled mostly against an incoming tide and arrived at Adams Inlet at 6:50. Both very cold at the start of the day, we only got much colder kayaking in rain and dense fog. We were going home the next day, Thursday. Although she didn’t realize it, Mary Beth was hypothermic. As she tried to set up the tent, I knew she needed something hot and food as well. I immediately fixed hot chocolate and then a bit of food. She thought the tent was more important, but I saw otherwise.

I was eager to get down to Adams and meet the pick-up boat. I wanted to find out what was going on in the Middle East. As soon as we boarded, Mary Beth said, ”What happened in the Middle East?” The crew looked at us blankly and said, “Nothing.”

The days after we arrived home, I harvested parts of my garden—digging potatoes, pulling carrots and beets, cutting broccoli and cauliflower for eating, freezing, and storing. I also dug more potatoes in the very early morning of the 11th before my neighbor and I went for our usual 7:00 walk. On his way to work, someone stopped to ask us if we’d heard what happened on the East Coast. My first thought was three hurricanes had landed on different parts of the eastern seaboard—how unusual and bizarre, yet I had heard nothing of bad weather there. No, it was planes, explosions, and implosions. We took about five steps forward then turned to walk back to Ky’s house. She had a TV. Two planes impacted The World Trade Center—I saw that in my dream. A helicopter flew between the two burning buildings—I saw that in my dream. The buildings imploded—I saw that in my dream. I watched these images as if I were looking in reflecting mirrors. After about ten minutes, I stood up and said I had to go home.

Like all of the US, Robert and I listened to the news all day. The next morning, the 8:00 news said that Manhattan was closed from 14th Street on down. “That’s my neighborhood! Where we lived. Where I went to school. Where I went to church. Where I went to Meeting. Where I played with my friends.” Feet still on the floor, I lain down and fell asleep—for 50 hours. I remember my husband straightening me out on the sofa. I remember him waking me to offer some soup. He insisted. I let him feed me two spoons full. I remember him waking me the next afternoon to go to the airport so he could go back to work and I return home with the car. It’s a very small town. I went in my nightgown and bathrobe, drove back home and went back to sleep. I woke up at 10:00 Friday morning. Except for the 15-minute ride to and then drive home from the airport, I slept for 50 hours. That’s called depression.

Six weeks later, I had a conference in Connecticut. I decided to go see the friends I’d grown up with who still lived in The Village. Everyone here asked me if I was going to go to the site. “No.” I bought two of the small pins tourists often buy, one for the local police station and the other for the fire station. As it turned out, after several days in The City I decided instantly, I was going to go way downtown.  

I walked by the neighborhood police station and decided not to go in there. It was not familiar. I walked from where I had lived to where I went to grammar and prep school and passed the local fire department. The doors were open. A saint’s statue stood beside the huge door with many flowers surrounding it. When I handed the Alaska pin to the young fellow who approached me, he was touched. So was I. I don't know why I handed him the pin I did. It had a bald eagle on it. "Look," he said as he pointed to the company seal with its eagle. Then he pointed to the photos of the twelve men who had died at the World Trade Center that day. I had several choices which street to take when I walked to Friends Seminary. I often chose 13th Street between 4th and 3rd Avenues. This was my fire station for both my schools and the places where I lived. Even as a teenager, FDNY 3 & Battalion 6 was "my fire station." Now it was even more so.

Because of copyright, I cannot post the image of Ladder 3’s symbol, but it is on the site of FDNY Ladder 3 & Battalion 6 webpage. I never took a picture of the pin I gave them, but there I stood before their symbol of the eagle.

I never intended to go down to the site, but when I woke up that late October Friday morning while staying with my childhood friend, I suddenly decided I'd go down there. As I approached one of the many policemen there, I told him I’d grown up in The Village and now lived in Alaska. He said, among much else, “I hear you have a lot of beers there.” I thought, well, we have a high rate of alcoholism, but then I realized he meant bears in his finest New York accent. Yes, we do, and I gave him the other pin.

While as close to the site as we were allowed, I smelled iron, concrete dust, blood, and death. All at one time. I don’t ever remember smelling more than one thing at a time.

As I walked past Trinity Church, its cemetery, lawn, fence, and building all covered with dust, I approached the subway station and went down few steps before I realized I had too much emotion—sorrow, anger, grief, anxiety—to ride anywhere. I turned around and started to walk however far I would. Soon I joined another woman in the same state I was in, far too full of emotion to do anything but walk. We passed City Hall, Spring Street, and up towards The Village. We parted somewhere. I could have remained friends with her for the rest of our lives, but we never exchanged even first names. I passed Washington Square where I used to live. I passed 14th Street. I was at 23rd Street and 4th Ave. I had walked two and a half miles, before I began to slow down and look in store windows at dishes, mattresses, books, or whatever they sold. I turned and walked back to my friend’s house at 16th Street and 6th Ave.

I post a blog, Personal Thoughts, the first of each month and another one, Flashbacks, on the 15th. I received an email from a friend about being a retired fireman. He was the inspiration for this post.

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