Friday, September 09, 2011

9/11 10 Year Anniversary

I've already written about the covers everything I remember. There are details I left out for reasons of anonymity. It isn't that I believe it would be all that hard to ID me should anyone try to snoop doggy dog me from work--enough key words will lead you RIGHT HERE--but there was one notoriously callous moment I will never forget that I cannot get into too much detail for, if you think about it, obvious reasons. Let's just say that an anonymous someone said something to the effect of "it's been two weeks already. Aren't we ready to, you know, move on?"

Two weeks.

I can't remember when, exactly--maybe it was standing on 5th avenue, kicked out of my office, watching the smoke downtown...maybe it was the walk to Meg's apartment, or the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge--but I do remember thinking very concretely that nothing would ever be the same again. Ever. You can divide an American's world view very clearly between pre-9/11 and post-9/11. Our soft, safe world of hypothetical threats (Russians! Nukes! Aliens!) was shaken apart on that day. It was not hypothetical, it was the worst thing that no one had ever imagined before...not on that scale, for sure.

Remember when a plane crash was big news? The biggest? I remember being glued to the TV whenever a plane crash happened, it scared me so much. That morning, after the basic facts (drenched in hysterical theories) were established, I do remember saying something about this. One accidental plane crash was the height of horror for me. Now, in this new world, there are four plane crashes, all hijackings, all deliberate. It was too much to handle only this information for me. I believe wholeheartedly that this is why I shut down.

My editor friend posted a link to the just released audio recordings of that day and made a very insightful and intelligent comment about how people who say it was "like a movie" were wrong. He said it was a waking nightmare. It was. More for so many than for me. I remember Meg's boyfriend arriving home while we were watching the one and only channel they had and his shell shocked expression. He worked in that area and he'd seen first hand the people falling from the towers. If that had been me...I don't know what. I would not have been able to function.

The thing is, though, that for me it did turn into a movie. Because it HAD TO. When I went downstairs to see that the second tower had fallen I had a choice. My friend was on the ground screaming, people were milling, yelling, crying, and shocked. I was in this new, scary city 4 months. I had a choice. Those walls shot up and were lacquered in steel. Everything that happened was a cold dream, a movie playing out that only happened somewhere 10 feet away from me. Nothing to be scared of. Nothing to think about. Nothing.

My friend Chris has a huge heart. When I moved to NYC she basically forced me to be her friend. I am a homebody to the extreme; she would hear none of it. And this is a good person to have that particular quality because she is a wonderful person: positive, energetic, hilarious, sincere. When this happened, my friendship with her and with Julia was so new that I already felt exposed and scared. I am not good at making friends. So witnessing her unfiltered, completely real emotional reaction to what had happened made me feel all the more alien and cold. Their insistence that I come over that night, come with them the next day to the Brooklyn promenade, and join them for other events (the charity event at The Gate, watching the concert for the NYPD and FDNY) cemented our friendship in a wholly unique way. I saw Julia just the other night and I can say without reservation that her very presence is a comfort to me. She and Chris represent complete safety to me. I get calm at the center and ride a kind wave of mutual adoration.

And while I can identify with people who say it was "like a movie" there was one comment that struck me wrong. This goes back to the point that everything changed. I've heard this opinion before and I absolutely disagree with it. This time, the source was a History Channel special on the event. One of the commentators talked about the expressions on the faces of the people who were watching everything unfold on the scene...the scores of people with their hands to their mouths, crying, screaming, witnessing the people falling, the fire, the horror of it all. He said, "We're not used to seeing this happen in our lives, on a daily basis, where in other parts of the world it is a daily event."

Really? Really. Please tell me when this event has happened anywhere else in our modern times. You cannot compare this to bombings, other hijackings, NOTHING. You cannot. Or did he mean just seeing people senselessly die? That is the only parallel. No modern, first world country has seen 4 passenger planes full of people target 2 iconic landmarks full of living humans, and destroy that many people in one contemptuous, single-minded and misguided effort to make a simple, narrow-minded point.

Two weeks.

It's been 10 years and I still cannot allow what happened full access to my heart and mind. I see it with clinical eyes. I wait for it to wash over me and, finally, through me. To finally truly understand the weight of it. The bloody heft. I know so much of what protects me was there from the start; what I've known, what I've seen. Self protection is paramount. But I fear this protection is the same as a sociopathic tendency. I see the faces and I understand they are real, all of them, but when I try to see the event as a whole it spools out like Not real. Never real.



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