Like A Trip Back To Middle School

Thursday, September 11, 2008

most days i can't put to rest the burning city smoking in my mind

On the 7th anniversary of the scariest day of my life, and the first time that I was in NYC on September 11 in five years, I thought I'd share an entry I posted on a far more personal "blog" on September 11, 2002, while it was still "fresh". I know it's not conventional, but this is my September 11 story, and this is how I choose to remember it.


On September 11, 2001, I was on 14th Street, sleeping, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. I was awoken by Raina, who'd received a phone call from her mother... then a phone call from my father... then a phone call from my own mother.

Despite being in New York City that day, I didn't see the buildings fall. I didn't hear the buildings fall. I didn't even see them burning, except for on TV. Raina and I went upstairs to the highest point in our building to see if we'd be able to see anything, but the windows in the building only faced north... by the time we'd come downstairs, the second tower had fallen. I saw the smoke-filled sky as I fled from the city with Lauren and her friends, but aside from that, I was no closer to the events of that day than the millions of people who watched it on television that day.

See... my real September 11th story isn't about that day... it's about the days afterwards. And it's not about the events... it's about dealing with the events.

I was never fearful for myself that morning. I went back to sleep after Raina told me the news. I went back to sleep after my dad called. It wasn't even 9:00 in the morning... I had more than an hour before I had to get up for class. I was exhausted and not processing the information. The fear started when my mom called, and even then, it wasn't for myself.

I pictured Lauren, walking to student teaching. I pictured Mary, waiting for the bus to take her to campus. And when I tried calling them, I got no answer on either of their phones.

And then the fear really set in.

September 11 was, for me, about finding strength in friendships. About taking the scariest thing that had ever happened to any of us and getting through it together.

The largest dorm at my school was evacuated that day and its residents were unable to return for two weeks. The dorm's residents, which included Mary and Lauren, were put up in hotels, given free textbooks and school supplies, and given money to buy clothing. But because that didn't happen right away, my roommates and I invited them to stay with us.

Nine of us in all... me, Anna, Janeen, Raina, Mary, Lauren, Lauren's roommate Cassie, Lauren's friend Anita, and Anna's friend Ricky. Nine people in a room designed for four. For at least two nights... Mary stuck around on and off for the full two weeks that she was "displaced".

And what do I remember about those days?

I remember making up a song to the tune of Newsies' "Santa Fe" entitled "Water Street" - an ode to the evacuated dorm.

I remember singing Weezer's "Island in the Sun" with Raina, Janeen, and Mary... not all of it... just the "Hip Hip"'s.

I remember eating the sprinkles off of the chocolate chip cookie scented candle I had, just because Anna's friend SWORE that they were real... and he was totally right.

I remember eating lots of "fart food".

And I remember not being scared anymore.

When Raina came into my room a year ago today, I had lived with her for only a week. I knew her a little bit, but she was still "Janeen's roommate" to me... she wasn't yet my friend.

In those days afterwards, that quickly changed. In a matter of days, Raina became one of the closest people in the world to me.

I got to know Anita, who I'd met a few times through Lauren, but never really knew.

I realized that there was not a thing that I wouldn't do for Mary and Lauren.

If nothing else, last September proved to me that out of even the most horrible events, some good could come.


September 11, 2002 was a little different for me.

I woke up and Lauren was here... she slept over last night and we ate fart food and watched Matthew Perry on the Caroline Rhea show, since Who's the Boss? sadly did not air, and we basically treated it as a regular old sleepover... and when I got up in the morning, it was another one of those "it's just another day" type feelings. (I'd slept through the 8:30am memorial service.)

Of course, walking past Union Square Park on the way to class proved that was not the case... there were people everywhere, dressed in red, white and blue, writing their feelings about the day in chalk art on the ground or on murals or in paintings and just showing that they remembered.

I went to class, like normal. I came home in between class and work and wrote an e-mail to Mary, again, fairly normal. I went to work at 4:00 to discover that due to an "electrical emergency" they were closing at 6 - seemed kind of ironic that they'd be closing early for the first time since I've been working there TODAY... so I went there for a couple hours and had some fun with Alan and Tim and the crew, especially when 6:00 came, the doors were locked, and people STILL insisted on trying them despite the four huge signs across the doors that said the gym was closed... ha.

It was walking home from work and returning to an empty apartment that it started to hit me what today really was - up until then, it had been almost easy to forget.

Today - 9/11/02 - was a day of remembering. Remembering the buildings that had been such a part of my city for so long that I was so used to seeing them that I couldn't even mentally place them back in the skyline after they were gone. Remembering all those who were killed on the planes that day; all those who were killed in the buildings that day; all those who were killed trying to save others that day. Remembering all those who lost loved ones that day. Remembering thinking, "Things will never be the same again after today"... and about how in the past year, life has gone on for so many of us, and things have returned to normal, and how we've grown stronger for that.

And remembering the people who made the recovery process possible.

Remembering the friends who were there for me that day.

Remembering the friends who were there for me in the following days.

Remembering how fortunate I am to have such a group of people in my life, how fortunate I am to have not lost anyone that day, remembering how fortunate I am to have come out of that day stronger than before.

I don't think I said nearly what I wanted to in this entry, but I didn't really know how to say what I wanted to say.

So I'll end it by saying that not a day has gone by in the past year that I haven't thought about how thankful I am... and I will never forget.

~ In Memory Of All Those Lost~

God bless America, land that I love...



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