Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I don't even think what just to know sometimes anymore

very surprising to me that even here in New York (at least in midtown - I assume downtown is muchly different) September 11th is passing as a nearly normal day.

but it's not, of course.

I probably did myself no favors listening to Springsteen's The Risingon the way into work. while certainly flawed (Bruce needs to quit writing songs with 'Mary' in the title), The Rising, more than any other disc I can think of, comes closest to capturing the range of emotions that this day conjures.

it's the sixth anniversary of the day in which a majority of Americans feel that their life irrevocably changed (see: recent Zogby poll which states that 81% of Americans (a much higher percentage on the East Coast) think the September 11th is the most significant historical event in their lifetime).

the Times has a number of articles, interactive presentations and even entire web issues from September 12th-20th, 2001, and the posts from that week reveal, like aftershocks, a preponderance of bomb scares, the openings and closings, openings and closings of the local airports (a number of planes were searched after they pulled back from the gate, and more than a few bearded and dark-skinned men were led away from terminals in handcuffs).
by the 14th even the Times was heralding Rudy Giulani, in contrast to President Bush, as a true leader.
by the 15th the Justice Department had zeroed in on at least the names of the 19 hijackers.
and, of course, all week long you could see and, if you weren't here, read about the heartbreaking search for survivors, interviews with people who spent that week furiously grasping at hope, plastering xeroxed snapshots of the missing - a sister, aunt, mother, brother, friend, father or fiancee last seen on the 96th floor of the North Tower, the 89th floor of the South Tower - all over Manhattan (especially around the Lexington Avenue Armory and just below at Union Square)
of course we know now that no one above the two points of impact got out alive.

no, this is not a normal day.

this anniversary is the first which lands on a Tuesday. September 11, 2001 was, of course, also a Tuesday. primary day in New York City. but unlike today's dreary rain and haze, that Tuesday was beautiful and clear.
I had stayed up very, very late (five, five-thirty) writing the night before, and so when the phone rang sometime before 9 a.m., I woke, kind of, enough to eye the alarm clock, but made no move to the phone. a few minutes later it rang again. and when it rang the third time, I answered. someone was obviously trying to reach me.

it was my mom (my spouse and mother-in-law had made the first two calls as I would later learn from the voice mail). she was glad that I was home. once a week I went to a job training center just three blocks from the Trade Center so JPMorgan Chase would pay for my German class at NYU (don't ask - it's a long, boring story), and my mom was afraid that this might've been that day.
she told me to turn on the television. I did, and less than a minute later saw the second plane veer into one of the towers.

I knew that my spouse was fine even though I wouldn't hear from her for several more hours (after the second plane hit, getting phone service was a matter of luck). she worked on 23rd Street. she wouldn't even be close.
but when I did hear from her she said she was headed to give blood, something many, many city residents did. so many that she had to go to one, two, three blood centers before she found a place to donate. the lines were long, unbelievably long, everywhere.
I wanted her to come home. I felt bad about wanting that, having her home with me instead of out giving blood, but the subways weren't running, I was by myself, and there was little to do but watch the television which showed the same unbelievably horrific images over and over and over. I wanted her to come home.
to get here she had to walk over the Queensboro Bridge, and a long distance before and after. she didn't make it home until almost nine and I'd spent twelve very awkward hours by myself, and I was a long, long way from my family in Alabama.

the next day my spouse and I walked to Socrates Sculpture Park by the East River. by then, about 28 hours after the towers collapsed, the resulting cloud had made its way uptown. you could see the smoke (if that's what it was). you could smell the smoke. you could taste the smoke.
back home we closed our windows and watched more television.

you could talk to strangers then, for days, maybe even weeks. just start up a conversation on the subway platform (our stop is elevated, and almost directly parallel to one of LaGuardia's landing patterns; on a clear day you can see four, five, maybe six airplanes lined up to land) if you felt like it (something we didn't do before and haven't done since). by Friday, when air traffic in the country sputtered back to life, you could turn to a stranger on the subway platform and talk about how odd it seemed, how frightening it was, to have planes back in the air.
for a few days everything had been very, very quiet, but we hadn't really noticed.

and so today's the sixth anniversary of September 11th.
and while I understand the urge, the instinct to move onward and upward, I'm having problems, even now, not tearing up, for example, reading the remembrances of family members' last conversations with trapped loved ones, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and best friends that they they knew they would never see again.

no, this is not a normal day.

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