Last night we were hanging at the Magzndixon Line while Crighton played.it turned into an outfit changing show..a past outfits show and a theme show. Poor Crighton.
And then the topic of 9/11 came up.
And I had so much to say..but so little to say at the same time.
It's been a long time, I guess. I don't know if time really healed the wounds..or if time simply allowed a thick scab to grow - enough so we could all function - leaving the wound there..able to open up at any time.
In 2001 I was still in college - four blocks from the WTC. If you've never been, there was an amazing section (7) with a giant Borders bookstore and a concourse level with some amazing stores - the Warner Brother Store, Victoria Secret, Crabtree & Evelyn, etc. I spent most of my breaks between class there. Benches were arranged outside for relaxing and eating lunch, the Wall Street people wandered out of their madhouse to mingle with the rest of us..and the mix was always fun out there.
I lived with my parents, my sister, her husband and my nephew. My dad wasn't yet retired from his job - but he didn't go into work until about noon most days.
So he babysat my nephew until my sister came home to work the rest of the day out of our home office.
On this day, he went to take his blood test (after heart valve replacement surgery, he has to take blood thinners and get his blood checked regularly to maintain the correct level of thick/thin). So I fed my nephew, who was now one year and nine days old, and thought about my own impending 21st birthday in six days. We were going to all go away - my family, my aunt's household. A giant group of us to the Jersey Shore for one last weekend before the cold weather came. I never would end up taking that trip.
My dad came home and took the baby. I hopped into the shower - class started at 11. I needed to be out of the house by 9:30 so I could make my morning stop at Au Bon Pain and then head to class. So I started to shampoo my hair..and there was massive banging at the bathroom door. I don't know why, but all I could think of was that something had happened to the baby. So I come flying out of the bathroom, wrapped in my towel with shampoo still in my hair. My dad was running down the hallway to his room and I followed.
"Look." And I did. He pointed at the television which showed a building on fire. Thick puffs of black smoke spilled out of the building and the weather announcer was freaking out on air. He wasn't meant to do this job - but he'd been giving the morning weather and traffic report from the helicopter and had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. I sat down on the bed and stared.
That wasn't just some building. That was the WTC. And..it wasn't some little Cessana like usual. No. It was a big plane.
So my dad ran down the stairs to go call my mom and sister and make sure they were okay. They were - they worked in Mid-Town.
My nephew sat on the floor lining up his little cars quietly.
And then the weather man was freaking out. And he wasa screaming. "Oh God..there's another plane..no..no it can't be." And I watched. Horrified.
The second plane hit and everything was in flames. People were screaming and running and the phone lines went dead.
We couldn't call anyone..and nobody could call us.
My hair was dripping down onto the bed now. I ran back into the shower and quickly washed it out. My hands were shaking. I don't think I conditioned or anything. I stumbled out of the bathroom and got dressed in sweats and a hoodie. It was September, but I waas shivering. And I was scared.
My nephew was asleep in my dad's bed and I crawled in next to him and we watched the news. They showed the people that were jumping - escaping one horrible death only to find another. The bloody, the soot covered. They were all there on tv. It felt so unreal..and yet..I knew it wasn't. It was very much real.
And when Tower 2 fell, I felt cried. My dad cried. The new reporters cried.
Life is so precious..WHY would anyone do this? What had these people done wrong - except go to work?
And the reports started swirling in. Some fact, some guesses.
And my mind wandered. My immediate family was safe, thank God. But. My neighbor and train riding buddy worked for Transit.
I put my still wet hair in a bun and put my slippers on. His wife didn't work, she'd be home to tell me he was okay.
So I came down my steps and she was sitting on her steps with her telephone in her hand.
No. She's waiting for someone else to call.
She must be.
Her eyes were red. "He called. After the first plane hit. He was out and safe. Said he was going back for his team." She looked at the phone again. "I haven't heard from him since." And my heart sank. I don't think any of us knew then she'd be sitting on those steps for four days.
He never would come home again. She'd move..trying to find peace. For herself and her kids.
God, I feel sick.
My friend Annette worked for Windows of the World. Top floor of the WTC. Amazing restaurant. Very posh.
She called her mom. What must it be like to know you're about to die? What do you do when you're a mother on the other end of the phone?
She never came home again, either. We never did shots again. Her voice has faded slightly from my memory..but not completely. Sometimes I hear someone laugh and I pause..thinking she's come back in some Lifetime movie fashion.
What did she do wrong to deserve this? What horrible thing did she do..to die this way? To have her life cut so short..?
I've gotten up and left this post three times now.
Something about remembering my friends..my old stomping grounds..it makes me feel hollow.
The lost servicemen..who ran in while everyone else tried to run out..those images are haunting. Their pictures still line firehouses throughout Manhattan. Pictures of heroes lost.
I went back to school when downtown was reopened a week or so later. National Guard stopped everyone for ID and their purpose there. Soot lingered on everything. And the smell.
The stench of a thousand burning dreams - forever gone. Of countless lost loves. Lost children. Lost laughter never to be heard again.
The stench made me gag when I came up the subway steps. Every day. And the fires burned for days. And like the hope that so many clung to for their loved one, it slowly died.
Businesses shut down for good. The little stores that made downtown so great.
Every pole, post, wall, door..was covered with MISSING posters. Countless faces forever lost. Flowers littered the streets..the missing posters..the fence sealing off Ground Zero from public access.
I was standing in a giant cemetary. There was no easy way to put it. No easy way to comprehend the destruction and loss that 9/11 brought to everyone. There was no way to understand or accept the loss.
Eventually..the world continued. Before we knew it, there was a one year anniversary of the event.
I don't know.
It feels so long ago..yet it's all so vivid.
People still sport their 'We will never forget' stickers. Sometimes I want to ask what they won't forget. Is it someone? Is it their own story of running for their life? Or was it just trendy?
And don't get me started on the people who pose for pictures infront of Ground Zero.
Or the people who stole money donated to help the relief workers and the families.
If you've sat through this post to this point, thank you. Maybe this was just something I needed to get off of my chest. I've never felt so tired after a blog post.
My world changed that day - everyone's did, I think. But..for the first time in my selfish life..I realized that life is not promised. No matter how good or honest you are. No matter what shoes you wear, what designer's name is on your ass - it won't save you or keep you safe.
I went to see Kung Fu Panda with my nephew on Saturday. And I give you this little bit of old wisdom which I've heard many times:
Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today is a gift. That is why we call it the present.
Don't forget. Never. Any of it. Or any of them.