Summer Falls to Autumn

This can’t just be a sports hobby, you know?
Photo: Robert Ramberg’s home archives

The door swishes closed behind me and the carriage jerks into motion. I managed to catch the earlier train after all. I sprinted the last hundred meters at full trot; it was worth it. Waiting half an hour at the station is not a pleasant option. Sure, you can find ways to kill time at the station tunnel record store, but this often leads to – at least in my wife’s opinion – unnecessary spending.

My breath evens out as I weave through the crowded carriage sections towards the locomotive. The front is always more spacious. There you usually have the whole booth to yourself. You can take off your shoes, prop your feet on the seat across from you, and gaze at the passing autumn landscape. The colors of autumn are only barely present in the early days of the month. Today, the train seems to be on schedule: the scrambled announcement echoes, ”Pasila, Böle!”. No control system failures, no leaf-covered tracks, no gear trouble, no steering unit problems…

The journey continues jerkily towards Järvenpää. Good. I’ll have plenty of time to have dinner before this evening’s ice hockey juniors’ parents’ meeting. In the first carriage, there are about a dozen passengers. Someone reads a book, one is doing a crossword, another snores deeply in sleep, and there’s one guy with big headphones over his ears. Today, I do not feel like listening to music. I find a comfortable position and close my eyes.

Suddenly, the headphone guy jumps up and yanks the cord from his phone. ”A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center tower in New York!” he exclaims. The crackling voice from his phone fills the whole space. Despite the train’s vibration, the live radio news echoes loudly, capturing the attention of all passengers. Even the sleeping lady jolts awake. All other programs are canceled, announces the reporter.

Something odd is happening. No one seems to make head or tail of it, neither the people on the radio nor in the carriage. I get off at the Kyrölä station and half run home to Mannilantie. I press the on button on the remote control.

It takes a moment for the transmission signal to transform into an image. A passenger plane crashes into the tower. What is this? One tower is already burning. Is this a second plane? The answer comes immediately. Two jets have crashed into both WTC buildings.

The shaky image occasionally focuses on the streets, where people are panicking and fleeing. Something is falling from the towers. People! This cannot be an accident. This is an attack – a terrorist attack on the heart of America, an agitated voice announces. I sit mesmerized and shocked, staring at the unfolding events on the screen. One of the towers collapses. It is quarter to. I must leave, if I intend on making it to the meeting.

The familiar buzz fills the upstairs meeting room at the bank. There are only a handful of us men present. This won’t take long, right? I suggest that the choice of coach be postponed to another time. A stunning attack has happened right in the middle of Manhattan. Surely, we all want to get home to follow the live broadcast? My proposal does not get any support.

”Some ragheads messing around a bit.” Murmurs the pinstripe-suited guy on my right.

”This coach issue really needs to be sorted out now and there will be plenty of time to watch TV later in the evening”, the chairman grunts, adding, ”this is really important for the boys’ ongoing success. Last season’s bronze medals must be upgraded.”

”Those Yankees will sort it easily out with these date planters.” Laughs the tracksuit-clad, bearded candidate coach on the other side of the long table.

By nine o’clock, I am back home. In the studio they’re interviewing Minister Erkki Tuomioja. Both towers have collapsed. Attacks have also been made elsewhere in the United States. Video footage is cycled back and forth, over and over again. The death toll could be as high as in the Winter War, Tuomioja muses. I follow the broadcast until midnight.

Many things have now changed. My son’s wish to quit playing ice hockey will come true tomorrow. I will call the newly elected bearded coach. I do not want to be part of that team. The same happened earlier with the boys’ soccer team: this can’t just be a sports hobby, you know? The competitive drive has taken a firm chokehold on some of the parents. We both, my son and I, will be satisfied.

In the morning, I wait for the train to Helsinki at the Kyrölä station. I greet familiar faces. We exchange a few words about yesterday. People are quiet, confused. Many stand on the platform leafing through a newspaper. The loudspeaker crackles to life: ”H-Train to Kerava, Tikkurila and onwards to Helsinki will be running about 15 minutes behind schedule.” And then it’s silent again. I look out over the fields of the rural college and imagine I can see a lake. Much has changed, but not everything.

The Statue of Liberty and burning WTC towers
Photo: Wikipedia


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