September 11, 2021

5 years today

I'm just another of the millions of people who happened to be in New York when the planes hit the World Trade Center. I was at the gym, on the treadmill, when the first plane flew smack dab into the north tower. I watched it on TV like lots of other people. I didn't believe it when the weathergirl tried to convince the news anchor that it was a plane that had made such an impact. I couldn't connect the outside world with the inside of my television screen until I looked out the window. Black smoke was drifting horizontally across the clear blue sky. It was even clearer than it is today, and it's a pretty open sky here in New York right now. And then it was real. So real that I froze. I watched the TV screen, and then looked outside, and then second tower was hit. I watched the faces of other gym members as they began to cry, to worry about their relatives who happened to be at work already. I remember running home to see packed buses of people, barely able to make it down the streets, doing anything they could to mass exodus from downtown.

I watched the first tower fall on TV as well. I was lucky enough to be able to make a phone call, to call my father to let him know that I was alright. We watched together as the tower fell. I started to cry. I had to leave my apartment. I headed back out into the mass chaos of midtown and walked back to the gym. It was strange, but there I could find solace in the others who had stayed.

It was the first morning that I ever made a mental note about how perfect the sky looked. I don't remember thinking about the sky any other time, and I don't let myself think about it anymore. It was the most perfect blue sky, and then there was black. And the perfect blue sky wasn't so perfect anymore.

I was reading an article by Lisa Belkin in yesterday's NY Times. She was talking about what's really changed since 9/11. Not about Bush or about war, but about what we, as people, have done to change our own lives since then. I'm generally amazed by how many people, people all over the world, felt genuinely affected by what happened here in New York. It's part of the reason my boyfriend, who was living in Spain, came back to the states. He even found himself in New York for the first time not long after that. And he chose to work for the September 11th fund when he arrived.

I know how hard it can be to relate to something that doesn't directly involve you. I still have a hard time understanding what it must have been like for those people on the planes, or the people in Oklahoma City, but for me - New York, 9/11 that was as real as it gets. So what have I done? I haven't thought about that in a while. My motivation for doing hasn't been focused on the events of 9/11, even though 9/11 is something I think about often. It is. I knew people in those towers. I could have been there. So many people I know could have or were there. It was, in a sense, part of my backyard and some bullies came in and made it theirs.

But I don't know what I've done as a direct result of 9/11. I can't answer that. I wish I could say I've helped do these tremendous deeds for people in need, but I haven't gone above and beyond in extraordinary ways. Yeah, I donate things to needier people, and I do a lot of work for little money. I offer my services when and if I can, but I can't say it's because of what happened September 11, 2001. I just don't know if any of my current motivation is a direct result of what happened five years ago today.

One thing is certain, I haven't forgotten. I don't think anyone can ever forget. I pass by Ground Zero quite often. I walk by the memorial wall at St. Vincentís Hospital every once in a while and look at the pictures of the missing persons. I remember back to the day, when there was this high hope for survivors, only no one was walking out of the rubble alive. I remember finding out about my friend Andrew, and others, and feeling this sense of loss like a bottomless pit. There were so many dead, and all they thought was that they were heading to work for the day. They didn't think they would die. I remember that I can't ever forget, even if I tried, because it happened here, and it was real, so real, it was tangibly real for me.

My biggest personal regret is that I should have worn a face mask the months after 9/11. I can't describe the smell of burning towers, burning flesh, and burning whatever the hell was in those towers. It is the most unique and awful smell I know. It is a smell I hope never crosses my nostrils again. It's a smell that's now destroying and killing the nice people who volunteered their time and services at Ground Zero in the weeks just after 9/11.

Today it's FIVE years. That's a long time to continue to relive what has happened. Yet we fight unpredictable wars and rally American support for a cause that people remember mainly as tragedy. Will it happen again? I don't want to say yes or no, but let's put it this way, I'm a pessimist in these situations. "When?" is probably the better question. "Will we be prepared?" is another one.

For me 9/11 is a reminder of how the world doesn't get along. Of how there are lots of bullies in the schoolyard, and they fight amongst each other and use the quiet kids, the kids who would rather stay out of the sandbox, how they push them around and force them to eat sand. How they set examples by blowing up big buildings, killing innocent people, making statements that affect everybody else at the school. I wish there was some peaceful way to protest, to make a point, to carry on.

I wish we didn't have to remember that it's been five years. I wish we could take it all back. Make it so it never happened. I wish the towers would just magically reappear, and that everyone inside them would be alive and well. When the planes hit those buildings everything stopped flying for the next few days. Everything except the one thing we can never stop from flying by. And that's time.

Five years of time.

Posted by jamye at September 11, 2021 11:33 AM