Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11

Every year, and I can't believe it has been 12, since the year that this country was attacked, I have feelings and want to say something. But because nothing really happened to me on that day, other than walking within the panic on the streets in New York and breathing in the vapor of death and devastation for weeks afterward, I have never felt entitled to say much. Other people suffered more. Other people witnessed much worse.

But here are the things that tend to come to mind on this day.

The weather. This year it was hot and humid in DC, nothing like the clear perfect air that absorbed the impacts of those planes. I walk out into the soup and feel a little relieved. It does not feel the same as that day's weather, so perfectly, relentlessly memorable.

I can't believe how in some ways it is almost like nothing happened. People post to social networks about their mundane concerns on this day, where before it would have been unthinkable to have anything but this event at top of mind. Is this progress, or regression? Maybe it's both.

How is it that my eyes still start to sting with tears at the image of the smoking towers, even though I have seen it so many times?

What do children, people who were just babies or not born yet, know about this day?

I don't like abbreviating it as 9/11, like it's a festival, or a thing.  I never will. I still seem to be the only one who finds the opening sequence of  'Mad Men,' much as I love that show, a bit insensitive.

I remember us all looking for ways to contribute. We flooded Red Cross and fire stations with clothes and supplies until they finally had to tell us to stop. The survivors we were hoping to aid did not exist. There was nothing to be done.

Missing posters and candles and flowers on street corners for people who were not to be found.

The smell, the smell.

The panics. Evacuations based on fear, on a new world that no one understood yet. Being herded down a staircase in midtown, crying, not because anything was actually happening, but because of what now was possible.

Bin Laden is dead now. Suck it, Bin Laden. And yet that offers no real satisfaction.

The blessing of my family, ties that endure beyond that moment when we could not reach each other and were confronted with just how important that communication is.

The day is officially passed now. I avoided the memories pretty well, as did (I'm guessing) a lot of people. Is there an unseen price we are paying for that avoidance? Or is it just moving on?

Music: "Letters From the Sky"


toddpruzan said...

Christina, those are important fragments. Thank you.

I agree with you on "9/11," for the same reasons as you. I refuse to say it. I refuse to write it. I've had editors shorten my phrasing of "September 11, 2001," and even "September 11," to "9/11," and although I'm a fairly pliant writer when I deal with editors, because I'm an editor myself, that's something I will never budge on. I think "9/11" is pat and too neatly packaged for what it actually was. People who are offended that the birth of their most beloved religious figure is sometimes rendered "Xmas" may understand how I feel about "9/11." I think it's the reason it's so easy to remember that day as a time for golf-course discounts and a half-hour's free muffins at a hotel and a commemorative Tweet that's meant to sell a smartphone. And it's a phrasing that, to me, is at the root of two administrations' worth of stupid domestic policy and obscene foreign policy that will take a generation to unravel.

"…because of 9/11." Tell me what you think "9/11" means, and I'll tell you whether we can have a civil conversation about it. If you tell me it's the day America was attacked, I'll tell you it's the day I watched—watched—office buildings rendered minutes earlier into exploding smokestacks, the day the woman I later met and married somehow avoided being killed by dumb luck, the day my family panicked when they couldn't reach me for a couple of hours, the week I walked past an empty financial district littered with crushed fire trucks. There's your "9/11."

Christina said...

Wow I love this.