Sunday, July 13, 2008

(a movie about) that day

Last night, after putting the kids in bed, I watched United 93, the Paul Greengrass film about the only hijacked plane which didn't hit its target on September 11th. I'd heard it was good, I'd gotten a copy, but still I had waited until I thought I was ready to see it. Maybe I miscalculated.

Anette is out of town, and even though I was completely exhausted from chasing V. and Adinah around by myself all day, and even though I was drinking a tall boy to steady my nerves, I was twitching five minutes into the movie. After 18 minutes, I paused United 93 to catch my breath and try to stop shaking. I paused it again after 29 minutes, and then again every seven to ten minutes. It wasn't exactly suspense or excitement, but reliving the shock of that day was almost too much.

Since 2001, wherever I am in the world, and whoever I'm talking to, if the subject of 9/11 comes up, it's always the other person who's in a rush to say where they were the minute they heard what had happened in New York City. Oftentimes they say, 'I saw it happen!' and what they mean is that they saw it live on TV. But I really did hear those two booms. I really was on Pitt street on the Lower East Side on that beautiful fall morning when I looked half a mile south and saw a hole in the World Trade Center. I saw it all.

I guess it left a hole in me too.


Yeah, well that was almost seven years ago.

In the apocalyptic, ohmygod days and weeks after September 11th, I decided I wanted to live. To go forward somehow. I decided I wanted to have a kid. One of the shittiest Presidents we've ever had got us into even more trouble. We went to Ethiopia and met Adinah. Then we moved to Vienna, and I wasn't sorry to leave behind a country that would re-elect a shitty President. And now I miss America, but I live in Europe, and I have a foster daughter too and I work for an NGO and help refugees because I want to live and embrace life.

I wonder where I would be if that day never happened.


Flashtrigger said...

There isn't much I can say to that...I'm sorry you had to witness that horror but I'm glad it molded you into something positive.

Elizabeth said...

I think it's left shards, holes, in everyone who was there. My sister-in-law, whose law firm is right next to the WTC site got off one stop beyond the WTC subway stop every work-day morning. That morning she came up the subway stairs to see the second plane hit and the buildings collapsing. I don't know how she copes with the knowledge that, but for chance timing, she could have been under the building came down. She was one of those toxic-dust covered people trying to get home. She now has gastric difficulties (presumably from ingesting all the toxins) and has to sleep sitting up. I don't think she'll ever watch United 93. It was brave of you to. Glad you've found your long, unlikely way home.

Snooker said...

I'm really sorry to hear that these terrible events put a hole in you. But I suspect that you have found a very worthwhile and satisfying way of filling that hole.

My brothers and sisters all attended the high school on the other side of the hill from where Flight 93 crashed. This is my hometown, this is where my roots are... and it was just by chance that the plane fell in an empty field and not a few hundred meters further along the line, hitting the school itself, killing who knows how many more people.

My brother had US mail fall from the sky into his yard not long after the crash, although he didn't know why at the time. A long-time friend walked out his front door to see the burning tire of an airliner on his front lawn.

Every time I go back to "that home" I make sure to stop by the Flight 93 Memorial which is still half a mile away from the crash site itself.

It fills me with tears of frustration that the people on that plane armed with the knowledge of what was probably going to happen had decided to take back control no matter what. If only they could have gotten control, if only they could have safely landed the plane, it would have been a kick in the soft parts to the "bad guys" to have their plan at least partially foiled, successfully at that.

I remember vividly being behind the mic on radio in a different part of the country when we got the news. When the AP announcement came out of the second plane my partner uttered these words after she read the news to 400,000 people, "This is most certainly a terrorist attack, and just the beginning of the changing of America." We let the air go silent, none of us could say a word for at least 45 seconds. People called us and couldn't speak, they just cried. It was horrible, and I will not forget that day, ever.

I watched the movie alone in a movie house. I, like you, trembled most of the way through it... although I had no option for pause... it just kept rolling over me.

Unlike you I did not take any real lessons from the tragedy. I've been to all of the memorials, I've seen the looks on the other visitor's faces... they mirror mine. Everyone trying to make some sense out of the nonsense.

Sorry, I probably produced more words than your initial blog... I suppose I just wanted to vent.

pat said...

Thank you all for reading and, like me, grappling with this shit. Guess it's gonna be with us for awhile.