Each time I sat down to read after age 44, the more I had to long-arm the material. I decided I needed reading glasses. I went to the ophthalmologist to get examined. The doctor told me my eyes were just fine. I explained my problem. She told me it was all in my head. I shrugged and she exited.

The months dragged on and my arms kept getting longer. My sister told me to go to a big box store where I could buy a nice-looking pair of reading glasses. I did just that. The next morning, I put on my new spectacles and, as I did each workday morning, ran a block and half to catch the bus to work. Each day as I rushed past, two middle-aged couples sitting and sipping coffee at a coffee shop would smile and wave at me. They once told me that they liked watching me “getting dressed,” as I ran down the street, satchel swung over my shoulder, tucking my shirt in my pants, tying my tie, always barely making the bus in time.

That particular morning the two couples weren’t there. It couldn’t have been the weather as it was a beautifully sunny day, a day that was so clear to me because I could see it like I had not in a long time.

After I boarded the bus and sat down and composed myself, I slipped on my new glasses and looked all around and examined my fellow travelers. Some looked better than I had thought and some looked worse. Sitting near the front of the bus, I noticed two young women weeping. Had I never seen that before? I hoped they were alright, that there was nothing terribly wrong. They looked like they were very saddened by something.

When I got to work, no one was there. Was this a Saturday? No. I checked the calendar, and then my wristwatch and it was definitely a Tuesday. Where was everybody?

I sat down at my desk and turned on the computer. Through my new reading glasses, I could see there were no new emails in my inbox. I clicked on the news. What what I saw with my new reading glasses was something right out of hell — the collapse of the twin towers. It was Sept. 11, 2001.

Van der Hout, a graduate of All Saints School, attends St. Pius X Church and Mount Angel Abbey Church.