Friday, September 11, 2009

2001

I think about it all the time and not at all.

The friends then, the person I was then - two children ago, one only almost out of diapers. One en utero, though I didn't know it yet. Living in tight quarters in Manhattan. Trekking, daily via foot and subway, 100 blocks south.

I have written about it, and I had to do it in second-person. The first-person narrative seemed, at the time I wrote (in June) irrelevant. It was so much bigger than the insignificant "I."

Even when I was there - I knew it wasn't my story. I was an outsider as I saw the plane hit, as I saw friends on the 18th floor of the Citi building collapse in hysterical tears knowing they had lost friends, family. I watched them and thought "how can you access that much emotion that quickly?"

I called Gavin, to tell him we saw the second plane hit, that we were evacuating, that I would be home when I got there. He reassured me that he saw on CNN that it was a secondary blast, not to worry. I told him I SAW it - and questioned, immediately what I had seen.

After the day, the 9-mile walk home, the arrival on the outrageously quiet streets of upper Manhattan, the phones that didn't work because of the switching station - vaporized with the towers that housed them, the vigils where I couldn't cry... after that was the smell for weeks. The smolder. Learning I was pregnant, wondering if the fumes would damage.

After came new security in our building, the wands checking for weapons, the scanning of bags, the meetings about possible cyber-attacks on the financial industry.

I watched TV, obsessively, for a few days - and then couldn't watch any more.

I had access to Ground Zero at a couple of points - and I couldn't go. I was a voyeur, and I knew the fact that I wanted to see it was somehow Wrong. It wasn't mine. I lost no one I knew.

The tributes are on again today, and footage. I can't turn on the TV. It never reconciles with MY memory of that day. The camera angles are all wrong for what I saw, and they never capture the weakness of my knees, or the way the ground actually shook just before the first tower fell.

We knew only After - and that nothing would be the same again. Nothing at all. I remember that thought - in the weeks that followed "every single thing will change", and I remember the mixed feeling of horror and relief when most everything carried on, unaffected.

Somehow, so much normalcy returned. By all impressions, we returned to a facsimile of where we were - and everything is the same - with a hole in the middle that you can't see unless you carry, in your back brain, the permanent impression of what lower Manhattan is "supposed" to look like.

Out here, on the periphery, we go about our normal days. We cloak ourselves in "code orange" and are x-rayed more than seems reasonable. We can buy mini security stations for mini airports for our children to play with. We use our passports to travel to Canada. The main thing that has happened to the majority of us in the post-9-11 years is that we are more inconvenienced individually, and more scared as a country. And not one little bitty bit safer.

And for so many people - those who drove friends, lovers, children or spouses to the airport in the wee-hours never to see them again; for those in the building; those cleaning up; those who sent their spouses to work. Those who phoned their adult children in desperate attempts to connect that morning and never did; those whose moms and dads did not pick them up from daycare, from the nanny, from the bus. For the spouses, children, family of firemen who drove so confidently and quickly to their certain death.

For all of them, nothing at all is the same.

Blessings, prayers and wishes for 'completeness' to everyone with that same tower-sized hole, patched over and "healed." For everyone who seems exactly the same - and isn't.

7 comments:

  1. It certainly does sound as if we had parallel experiences. Thanks for summoning to courage to think about it and write it down.

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  2. truthfully, sadly, embarrassingly, i'd thought little about today's anniversary until i happened across gavin h's link on facebook and came immediately here to read. I knew you would capture it all in a voice that would ring more true and sincere than most other tributes and memories out there. it is, unsurprisingly, beautiful. all eloquence and honesty. so personal and yet relatable. causing more pause than anything else i've read on the subject. thank you for that.

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  3. Such a lovely tribute and encapsulation of that day.

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  4. with a heart full I say thank you for that.

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  5. Numbing in recollection, beautiful and thankful for the blessing of you!

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  6. The memory still pierces me - of how desperately guilty I felt every time I dialed the phone that day, knowing that all functioning telephone capacity should be reserved then for emergency responders, knowing that millions of New Yorkers times their parents-children-spouses-siblings would already be overwhelming the system and since I wasn't immediately family I should *stay off and wait for you to call when you could* but hysterically unable to stop myself from calling until I heard your voice.
    RH

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