Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I do know that today is September 11th.

I couldn't decide whether or not I should be like everyone else and post, but I've felt guilty all day because I haven't posted about it, so I guess there's your answer.

I think that writing this right now means I am not one of the Americans who is quite ready to move on yet. I don't mean to indulge in sentimentalism; I'm just typing what I'm thinking about right now. I hope that no one who is bothered by the subject matter will keep reading on.

This morning at about 6:50 am it started raining so hard that it woke me up. Remembering back to a few weeks ago, when the entire MTA shut down because of a little pre-rush hour flash flooding, I turned off my alarm and tucked myself back in.

I woke up again at 8:30, at which point I decided the best way to find out the state of the trains would be to try watching the news. Needless to say, there was not a single channel that was broadcasting anything as lighthearted as a weather report this morning. I managed to catch the period between the mayor's speech and the traditional reading of the names, so it was this guy speaking who had lost his wife, the love of his life. He read a poem written by his two daughters.

I left for work sobbing, of course. Not that the people who have passed don't deserve it. And I think I would rather cry about it than not cry about it. But I think many New Yorkers (more so, perhaps, than other Americans) live with September 11th every day of the year. Every morning I walk by a particular fire station on the way to work, so every morning I get to see faces of the lost firefighters in bright acrylic on the brick outer wall of the station. Mostly little reminders like that. I'll admit there are afternoons in, say, July when I'll sit at my desk at work and page idly through the sites dedicated to the memories of the victims. I'll click randomly on a page link and read a personal story about accomplishments, family, favorite foods, unrealized dreams. After awhile I'll tear up and click out.

This year, like every other year, I wore all black. It's my little way of observing. I become very sad for two reasons when I think about it. I am shaken down to my core by stories like the one I tuned into this morning; the weight of the personal losses that directly and indirectly affect so many people in webs of interconnectedness across the country is astounding. But the other sadness is at the New York that is lost and may not exist again--and I do think that New York has changed at least a little more than America as a whole since 2001.

The towers came down only a few weeks after I first moved here, all dewey-eyed and full of selfish energy, imagining this limitless New York that was such a very rich carefree feeding trough for other selfish dewey-eyed would-be artistic types. I heard about what happened in an elevator, where I was babbling away cheerfully to a stranger about how I really needed to do my laundry (some themes never change). She was like, "You must not have heard, I guess..." I felt like an asshole.

I have a freakish number of out-of-state or out-of-country friends, and for some reason they all like to come and visit. And every single person who came to visit dragged me back to Ground Zero. The first time I went was in mid-October of 2001, and the last time I went (when I finally started refusing to go with people--you're free to go, I'd say, but I'm busy that day) was a year later in October 2002. They put up this blue barrier around the site--you probably all remember it, but--and people would write on the wall or hang flags or letters on it.

The one that really got to me that I still think about all the time was a collection of 1000 colored origami cranes from an elementary school in Nagasaki, Japan. "We love you, New York," it said.

I went one more time, in March of 2005, and another time I accidentally took the PATH train from New Jersey into the WTC site instead of to the West Village station, but I can't help but react exactly as strongly then as I did three years earlier.

I think that's really all I can think of to say. I know it's not coherent. I guess everyone has a story, anyway.

I'm praying, in my way.


Anonymous said...

and you should know that there are people in this world that thought of all of the people who they personally knew in new york on that day and immediately thought of you and hoped and prayed that you were not one of those lost because, really, it could have been anyone in that city in the wrong place at the wrong time. so while i think of and remember the ones who lost their lives and the families who lost their loved ones, i am also thankful that it wasn't you.

moonrat said...


angelle said...

i forgot that that was your first year in ny. i always thought how FRIGHTENING that must have been. new place, new life, and suddenly, boom.

strange. i didn't read that much about 9/11 today. i remember last year, watching the real-time replay on CNN pipeline. i don't know why i kept watching it, because it was dreadfully depressing, but i COULDN'T STOP.

i think it's one of those things you're always going to live with, that's just going to affect you a little bit more than other people. because we were there. we were in new york. we smelled the air that wafted uptown hours later. we saw our friends walking back from their jobs downtown covered in dust. we crept down to ground zero in morbid fascination. we wondered if we knew someone who had literally vanished into thin air. it's not the same as being in idaho. the way it is, is that every time i pass through the tunnel on my commute in, every time i see the police officers searching bags randomly in the subway, every time a pipe bursts, a fire starts, a small plane hits a building, a building collapses --- how can i not think the big T? how can any of not think it? and how can any of us not wonder: what's going to happen next? and when? not if, but when?

that's what it means to be a new yorker now, i sometimes think. it's that living day-to-day with the aftermath that won't go away.

Bernita said...

This isn't pimpage. It's a just a warm hand for your cold, little one.
You might like my daughter's essay at http://readingt.readingcities.com/index.php