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.