Today is just another day. Rainy, damp, Gibson is down for his 10am nap. Lola is having a play picnic in the living room with a few of her favorite dolls. Lots of goldfish and chocolate chips on little pink plastic plates atop a blanket on the floor.
9/11. I wasn't thinking about it today. But yes, I remember. I was driving to work. A gorgeous sunny, open sky kind of day. I was listening to the new Bjork CD. I had the sunroof open. I took exit 21. I was meditating, praying, thanking God for this gorgeous day, for the job I was going to, even though I was feeling boredom and suffocation there, just being in the moment, feeling almost chemically high with happiness.
I pulled into the parking lot, the music so loud inside my car. A group of my coworkers was clustered around an other's truck, all the doors open. I thought maybe they'd all forgotten their keys and were waiting to get inside. "No, I didn't hear?" I turned on NPR. Four or five people climbed into my car. The truck beside me was still running, all doors open and the radio still on. It felt like a carnival ride that throws you from side to side. You feel like you're going to vomit, then it comes to a crashing stillness and your insides are still urged to swing to that momentum.
We went inside. Found a radio and continued listening. No one turned on lights or reset the alarm. Two customers wandered in. They hadn't hear either. We told them what we knew. Details were sketchy and the worst was yet to come. They left the store speechless, in slow motion.
None of us knew what to do? This was all so new? Real fear. Attacked on our turf. New York City? I called Sean at work. He didn't seem rattled. I was scared, really scared. He was busy and had to go. I called my mom. I ran to the upstairs showroom with the phone. She was relieved to hear from me. She thought maybe I was in the city for some reason, a buying expedition for the showroom. "No, mom, I'm here at the store. What the hell happened? I'm scared. I'm going to cry."
My sister lives in Jersey. I had a few friends who lived in New York. The office manager had a small portable TV. We watched grainy images of the second tower going down.....Customers were coming into the store to buy furniture. Didn't they realize? It's like shopping on Good Friday at three o'clock. You just shouldn't do it, it's disrespectful.
I don't remember the rest of the day. I just remember being really really afraid. I'd never felt this unstable, this fear of "being attacked." I remember watching CNN for hours, for days. The horrible stories, people jumping out windows, rolling gray dust, debri clouds chasing people down the streets. Ticker tape falling noiselessly down, shards of glass, raining confusion. People running, hiding under parked cars.
A few days later a life support helicopter flew over our house from the hospital a few blocks away. I heard the above noise and literally threw myself down on the living room floor, crawling away from the windows. Panic. Soon, I couldn't watch the news, couldn't rewatch again and again the images.
In early October Sean's mom had come for a visit. We had planned on going to NY for the weekend. These plans and hotel reservations had been made two months before. She wanted to see the site. We did not. I remember an argument in the cab. We felt like dirty little tourists, wanting to see the train wreck. I was embarrassed to be there. The cab could only take us so far to the financial district. We walked the rest of the way. Store fronts were blown out. Pristine folded stacks of Brooks Brothers shirts were still on display tables, covered in deadly gray dust. Glittery shards of glass were still everywhere, a dew kissed reminder, still untouched by cleanup crews. Store fronts were raped, gashed open, everything still in its place. I was amazed no one had stolen these things?
Fences were covered, blotted out with images of lost people. Their photos loomed everywhere. Bios of them were fluttering, smacking against metal making tap tap noises. Why was it so quiet in the busiest of all cities that all I could hear was paper blowing against a metal barricade? I felt I was stepping on people, on bodies.
They had dressed for work that morning, or were running errands, or dropping their kids off at school, or were meeting or awaking from a tryst with their lover. Were kinds words said to each other the night before? Was a memorable meal shared, glasses of wine drunk, tips left at tables? Was someone so desperate, alone in that too large city, thinking of taking their life? Had someone just received news they were pregnant? Excited to share the news? Was someone going bankrupt, filing for Chapter 11 that next day? News of cancer, of an incurable disease? Someone had finished the last sentence to the last chapter of a book, rushing to the publisher? Was someone late for the train, flat tire, out of gas? Had someone cut somebody off in traffic, given them the finger? Stolen a magazine from the corner store, wished they didn't have to get out of bed and go to work?
Wishing somehow today could be different?