Monday, September 11, 2006


That five years have so quickly passed since that morning I awoke in a small New England town with nothing but hopes and dreams for the future is all the more reason to keep the Sept. 11 ritual alive. That day, that feeling, that experience was all about making the intangible tangible. The anger and fear of people thousands of miles away became real. That tense gripping in my chest had a face and a name. The tears on all our lost faces were given a physical link, a moment, a place. If all I can do is patch together what's still in my head than that's exactly what I'll do. This was my September 11th:

8 am huddled under my blanket hiding from the chilly Maine air and just 30 miles down the road there had been bad men with fake smiles passing through metal detectors with no explosives and no guns and horrible ideas in their heads. They were ready to change the world and I spent my morning learning how, for millions of years, the earth's plates had shifted. The tide had rolled in and back out again. It had carried the sand down the beach and left it somewhere new. For longer than I can comprehend things had changed slowly and the only single act that had really left so much as a scratch was a giant meteor from some far off galaxy.

By 10 I was asleep once again dreaming of knights and dinosaurs and Transformers and mountains covered with fresh, white snow. When the phone woke me up it rang just as it had a dozen times before. And when I answered it I couldn't help but hide the sleepiness in my voice. My roommate's father. I asked how he was. And as he answered I could hear a hesitation in his voice. He was ok. On the outside at least. "Tell my son that I'm alright?" Ummm, OK, anything else?

That's when he told me. I think I smiled at the absurdity. A plane? An attack? I assured him that I would tell his son that he is fine. My shoes slid on just as they always did. Down the three flights of stairs to the living room where cable wasn't yet installed. How could I find out what happened? The girl on the first floor heard me approach? "I just heard something about a plane in New York." I told her what I knew and together we left to find a television. A decision I would later regret.

As the two of us walked into the cafe there was an eerie silence. I saw the burning buildings. Gaping holes and plumes of smoke and I stared and I stared and I stared. Could it be real? Could it be true. I kept staring. Hoping it was a horrible trick. And then it happened. The second tower crumbled in on itself. I couldn't watch. I couldn't breath. I couldn't stand up.

I walked out the door onto the bright green grass and I found a tree. No building was safe but the tree was solid and it was strong and it was close. I sat down against the trunk in a nook. I pulled my knees to my chest. I put my hands to my face because I wanted to hide but I couldn't hide. All I could do was weep. I wanted to be part of the tree, to curl up within it and feel its unmoving strength. I wanted to feel the warmth of the water and the nutrients, roots to leaves to roots to leaves. All I wanted was to be something other than human, or at least something other than American. Than a target.

It's five years gone. Five years and still a gaping hole in lower Manhattan. Five years and still my countrymen fight a war of unintelligible reason and violence on the other side of the world. Five years and a White House administration who continues to hold one day over heads. Five years and still my chest hurts.

You can fight it. You can tell yourself that everything's fine and everything will balance out. That it will all come back to equilibrium eventually. But you're kidding yourself. The default setting is chaos. And when we let default run our lives that's exactly what we get.


Blogger Your every day girl said...

I have never been able to stop reading what you're writing, and I'm not sure that will ever stop.
I still wish i were a tree.

10:06 PM  

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