The Wizard of Oz, My Mom, and 9/11
The TV was on all day.
We made it a point not to turn it off. My mom sat in front of the screen, crying. I didn’t understand why until I saw the big explosions on the news. Something big was going on. There was an accident.
That’s what we all thought at first. A plane was flying too low and hit one of the Twin Towers. A freak accident, we all thought. Then the second tower got hit. After going back and forth from all of the different news channels, we realized what was actually happening.
My dad wasn’t with us. In fact, he was in New York, where he was supposed to do a demonstration on the linings of truck beds. His business trip was ill-timed, but he remained safe. Even from three thousand miles away, his alpha personality still shone through, and gave us instructions on what to do.
“Don’t go to school,” my dad said during a long distance call. “Both of you need to stay home.” My elementary school was very close to a military base, and my dad being the paranoid person that he was, told me to stay far away from that part of San Diego.
As a child, I didn’t fully understand what exactly was going on. I just knew that my mom was upset, and that was the last thing I wanted. My mom was also pregnant with my sister at the time, so I felt extra protective of her. But what can a seven year old do to make this horrible day better?
I had recently discovered the film Annie, which sparked a love of musicals in me that exists to this day. There were several musicals that I cycled through, depending on my mood. I went through my CDs, conveniently placed next to my Walkman, and tried to find a musical that was sure to make my mom feel better.
Annie? Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat? The Wizard of Oz?
Yes. That was the one.
My mom’s favorite musical has always been The Wizard of Oz. Mom loved Oz from a young age. In fact, my grandma was watching the film right before she was born.
So I picked The Wizard of Oz. Only I had no intention of putting the movie on the TV, not that she would even let me change the channel. Instead, I fully intended on performing the entire show by myself.
As I prepped, I slowly began to understand what was going on, and the effect it must have been having on everyone, not just my mom. Mostly, I just wanted to get her away from the TV for a little while. Now, being much older, I realize what it must have been like to be so fixated on an event like that, not being able to look away.
I was going to play Dorothy. All of the other characters were to be played by my massive collection of stuffed animals. I can’t remember who I cast as what part, but I’m pretty sure most of the toys were dogs. A dog-Scarecrow, a dog-Tin Man, and a dog-Lion.
Once I popped the CD into our player, I hit pause and had my mom come into the living room. She was my audience, along with my real dog, Jenny. When she was settled, I pressed play.
“Somewhere over the rainbow,
Way up high
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby”
To this day, I cry every time I hear that song. Maybe it was my mom’s reaction back then that I am reminded of. The Wizard of Oz meant so much to her, and I was overjoyed to see her actually enjoy something during that awful day. Despite what was on the TV in the other room, she was able to take her mind off of the day’s events.
That is just the magic of theatre, after all.