The bright February morning in 1993 wasn’t cold at all in our southern California desert town. We were all wearing shorts and t-shirts as we slammed the white car doors of our old ‘84 Toyota hatchback and the three of us kids followed our mother to the donut shop. Mom opened the door of Hole-in-One Donuts, her short brown permed hair bounced as she marched inside, and held the jangling door open to allow us to file in. I came in first, an awkward 13 year old, with hair like Mom’s when it wasn’t permed. I was head and shoulders taller than my sister who was two years younger than me. She had long blond hair and the confidence that came with knowing she was pretty. My 7-year old brother bounded in last and my sister turned around and told him to stop running into her.
The sugary fried smell, touched with bits of coffee, enveloped us as we came inside. We went straight to the display case with the tower of pink donut boxes on top, in easy reach of the clerk in a smudged apron. He was filling one for a man in blue jeans and a t-shirt with a dirty red ball cap, the kind that every blue collar man wore in the early 1990s. The three of us looked at the generous display and considered each donut lined in their careful rows. My little brother pressed his hands against the glass to get a better look and my sister lightly smacked his hands away. I decided on the chocolate cake donut with the peanuts on top.
The usual group of old men were in the shop, each sitting at his own table like a king at his court, with a black coffee in front of him. They were all looking at the TV screen that was bolted to the ceiling, just above the pink boxes. It was a news program and the reporter was talking urgently over the video of what was a very large building. It was so large that the camera could only see the bottom few stories and there was billowing black smoke coming from it.
“What’s going on?” Mom said to anyone in particular as she gazed toward the television screen.
One of the old men spoke up from his table. “Someone set off a truck bomb in front of the World Trade Center in New York.”
“Yep,” said another old man who presided at his court a table closer to us, “Killed 6 people.”
“Well, how terrible,” said my Mom. She gave our donut order to the clerk.
New York might as well be on another planet to me. Why would someone set off a bomb in a truck anyway? I considered that for about 5 seconds and found no answers, so I once again looked at the old men who kept court in Hole-in-One donuts. One old man was preaching to his choir about Middle Easterners and how they hated Americans while the other old men leaned forward in their thrones, a hand on their black coffee, to listen to him. Their conversation wasn’t interesting to me either, if New York was another planet then the Middle East was another galaxy. The news coverage about the riots in Los Angles less than a year before was more interesting than this to watch, at least until I saw what happened to Reginald Denny after he was pulled out of his truck, I stopped watching after that.
The clerk used his tongs to pluck our selected donuts from their racks and put them into a large white paper sack. He placed the sack on the counter as he rang up four donuts, three chocolate milks, and one coffee. Oh what joy to get a double treat: chocolate milk and a donut!
Mom gestured to a booth by the large front window, far away from the Kings, and put her change away into her wallet. My sister and I slid into the booth while my brother jumped into it and we looked at the TV screen, watching the black smoke billow out from the base of the building and looking forward to our donuts and chocolate milk.