It's 9/11. That means it's time to trot out the memorabilia and memories ad nauseum and fear for repeat attacks to mark the anniversary. This is usually abhorrent to me. I don't watch it on the TV and I try to play ostrich and pretend it didn't happen.
But it did.
Jazz had to write an article about his memories.
So I was companionably forced to recall what I could. I was woken by the phone and told to turn on the TV. I did so, just in time to watch the second plane fly into the second tower. Confusion ensued as I told Jazz about it- he still only knew of the one plane. I got dressed and went downstairs. I saw the first tower fall, then the second. I thought of everyone I knew in that area. I thought of what I would have done if I were trapped in the building- would I have run upstairs or down? Would I have left my purse? What of the person in a wheelchair? What if it had been a bad day for my gastrointestinal system and I was stuck in the john pooping? I admit to odd obsessions.
I stayed curled in a blanket most of the day, near the computer for IMs and near the phone. I didn't call anyone- because I knew jamming the phones would make things worse. I remembered thinking there must be cell phone repeaters on top of the towers as well as radio antennae. Who did I know in NYC? My best friend teaches kindergarten in Staten Island. But that's far enough to where she ought to be safe.
Then the plane hit the Pentagon.
When did Mom say Da was last in Washington? Fuck. He might be there. I did call home for that- they don't live near The City either. Mom reassured me- he had been the week before, but he was home now. He later sent me email where he told me he had walked that hall and attended meetings in that sector.
CNN kept covering Washington- the Capitol Building was evacuated, and various bigwigs stood around with their hands in their pockets, just talking. Their body language suggested they were ready for some brandy and a cigar. A reporter approached. They immediately said they felt sympathy for all the lives lost and hoped nothing else bad would happen- but they said it dismissively, like well-oiled cogs. I never wanted to hit someone so hard in my life. They weren't empathetic at all. It wasn't their lives in danger. They had not had a building fall on them. They were already pondering the spin and how to work this tragedy to their favor, to their will.
By the end of the day, we heard from my brother-in-law who had been staying at the Marriott the day before and checked out 15 minutes before the planes hit. We heard from my nephew last- he called his grandmother desperate for car assistance and pissed that he could not get a hold of anything. He had been on a trip with his fiance and didn't even know the Towers had been hit. His apartment was less than a mile away from the Towers.
We didn't hear the story of the PA flight for a while. I can't imagine their bravery. Or having a message on my answering machine from my beloved like so many received.
But the chilling tale for me from that day comes from my teaching friend. She told of an announcement over the loudspeaker of the first plane, then the second, and of the towers falling. The school was silent. A good percentage of the children had parents working in Manhattan. Some even worked in the Towers. As the day went by, parents arrived, hugged their children firmly, and took them home. And the children grew paler and paler with worry, the longer the day went on. There were no kids left in her class by the end of the day. Only a couple of students lost a parent, but everyone in that school knew somebody who died. A few weeks later, the first plane flew overhead in NYC again, and it was an odd sound. Some of the children dove under the desk. My friend stiffened nervously, waiting for the distant boom. It took months before she could ignore a flying plane again.
On 9/12, I was driving on an errand. There was a long line of cars in front of me, all with little US flags on them. I felt I was in a funeral. There were flags everywhere.
The first speech the president gave afterwards was raving but moving. Had he asked us, we would have individually gone through the caves of Afghanistan personally to find Osama. But no, he was blaming Sadam Hussein and Iraq, and it felt irrational to me. The country slowly woke up from blind grief and patriotic fervor, but that took months, and perhaps years. We hung a flag for more than a year, but now I'm just sad when I look at it, furled by the door.
I still freeze a little when I hear a low flying plane. I wait for the boom.