Author’s note: I wrote the following on September 11, 2002, when I was 23 years old. I reread it every year to remind myself of where I was…of who I was…of how I’ve changed. Of how I’ve remained.
Today, I share it with you. Be well, friends.
so much happens in a year. and they go so fast. and it’s funny…most people count their years by specific dates…birthdays. anniversaries. another 365 days. another long, languorous rotation around the sun. my how things change and how they stay the same.
and it gives me pause, because i think about those people whose birthdays and anniversaries fall on september 11th…and i wonder how they feel to have that day taken from them. and i think about the people who have the other kind of anniversaries on september 11th. the kind of anniversaries that you don’t want to celebrate. my how things change and how they’ll never be the same again.
and there aren’t any answers. there weren’t answers a year ago, and there aren’t any now. and that makes me crazy, although i’m getting used to it. god i was angry then. i felt hatred for the first time in my life. i wanted vengeance. vengeance is such a fascinating word…it has such rich connotations. and it’s not a word i’d ever have used before. but that’s what i wanted then. i hatedthem, and i was thrilled when they were given a name and a face, and i could direct that anger. i hated god; i went to church because it seemed like it was the place to go—all that catholic schooling pointed to god for answers. i didn’t get them. i hated people; i wanted to scream my throat raw when people who weren’t here said that they “knew it was going to happen” and that they “felt like they’d missed seeing a movie that everyone else had seen.” i was angry and when i think back, i can still feel it in the pit of my stomach. i’m not as angry now…but i still have my moments.
sometimes i feel like a fraud. i think about that morning and how very removed i was from it. i think about the fact that i was 60 blocks away. and no one i knew was hurt. and no one i loved was there. and i see that look cross people’s faces when i refer to that day. that look that says “why is she so sad? it’s not like she was *really* there.” and when i see that look i think, maybe they’re right. maybe i shouldn’t be so sad. maybe the thought of it shouldn’t make me tear up. maybe there’s no really good reason why i grieve.
but i do. i grieve for the firefighters who went up the stairs when thousands could think about nothing but getting down them. i grieve for the wives who waited for husbands to come home and never stopped waiting. i grieve for rescue dogs who were depressed because they couldn’t find survivors in the rubble. i grieve for doctors who lined up to treat patients that never came. i grieve for the men and women who worked in the newsstands and delis at the base of the tower…no one seems to talk about them. i grieve for men and women who held hands and jumped into the sky to escape a fate worse than a 110 story drop. i grieve for this city, with whom i’ve had a love affair for 20 years, which lost an immovable piece of its skyline. i grieve for all the new yorkers who look at that skyline and see “a kid missing its two front teeth,” as someone so eloquently said to me in the days following the disaster.
and then there’s the selfish part of me. the part that grieves for me. for what i knew of the world then, and what i know of it now. for what i missed. for the fact that i didn’t take a last look at them. for the fact that i’m forgetting just where they stood, and just how they looked. for the fact that “my” new york is forever changed…and something there will always be just out of place. for the fact that there will always be a before and an after. i grieve because i never got the chance to say goodbye. because all of a sudden, i was thrust into uncertainty with nothing to do but aimlessly wander down fifth avenue. because i’ve had no choice but to reconcile myself with this new world that i hadn’t been prepared for. i grieve for the part of me that used to take things as they came. and i have moments of severe distaste for the control freak that i’ve become—but now and then i feel her fade, and i have moments when i sense that the old me is coming back.
of course…there are silver linings in this cloud. there is a year that has changed my life. there are stories of hope. and there are things that ease the sadness. there are moments (that come more frequently now) when i know that there is an innate good in humanity. last night, there was a car service driver who explained how he put on his turban right after he explained how he felt about this strange, unhappy anniversary. several months ago there was a doctor on a train who took my pulse while a woman i didn’t know handed me saltines. there are traffic cops downtown who don’t just give you directions, but escort you to the brooklyn bridge. there are neighbors who offer to help if you ever need anything. there are new friends and old ones, who call just to check in. there is love, found before the dust could settle. and there is faith in humanity that is far more powerful than faith in god ever was.
i will light a candle today. and i will think about what is gone. i will spend the evening with my closest friends. and i will be thankful for what is here.