Five years ago around 10:15, I was strolling to the post office to pick up stamps for a work mailing. The weather, incidentally, was gorgeous, I remember that.
picking up stamps was my errand back then - it got me out of the office for about ten minutes once a week, which was a much looked forward to break. At that point I was on pretty much first name basis with all the clerks at the Northampton PO, so I was looking forward to seeing them as well.
When I got there, the first thing I noticed was that a TV on an AV cart had been dragged to the spot behind the counters. All the clerks were pretty much huddled to both sides of it, and everyone who had stopped in to do various mail related things were all draped over the counters, rivited by the fuzzy static ridden image coming through on the screen, picked up as best they could by rabbit ear antennas. I remember thinking "huh, that looks like the twin towers." But I couldn't tell that the tops of both of them were on fire until I got closer and could make out the billows of smoke amidst the static. Oh shit, I thought. "What the hell happened?" I asked.
They told me. A plane had flown into each tower.
I picked up my stamps and wandered out of the post office in a state of shocked calm. Once I got back I told everyone to turn on the radio, cause "Some major shit was going down in New York." Work, obviously, came to a grinding halt as we each flipped on NPR.
I put down my stamps and called sundart
, instructing her in a shaky voice to call my parents and not stop until she got an answer. She wouldn't get one, as the phone lines into New York were swamped long beforehand.
Bosslady returned from a talk she was giving at STCC that morning, still in her blue suit. There was a quiet exchange of "have you heards?" At this point, we'd heard that both the towers had collapsed and I was in a quiet state of near panic - a good chunk of my family was in the city at that time - two of my sisters (one living, one working), and my parents. My dad, retired by then, had a penchant for going downtown every day to check up on his investments. Hell, on Fridays I would go with him, and we always stopped at the WTC concourse for a book at Borders, or a slice of pizza at the Sbarro, or dad would pick up or drop off one of this multitudinous rolls of film at the camera store. Not to mention there was a Warner Brothers store down there as well - one bordering the entrance to the N/R Cortlandt Street Station had a mural/sculpture of all the Warner Cartoon characters riding the train. So I was mostly worried about him. If I'd been thinking rationally I would have known he was all right - he was never out of bed at 10 am, let alone running around. He usually didn't make it to the city until past noon. But no one was thinking rationally that morning.
Bosslady decided to dig out the small TV in the back of her office closet, so, after some rooting, we got it out and set it up in what was then our classroom. After about 20 minutes of fighting with it for a picture, one finally leapt out of the screen - not crystal clear, but clear enough - first tower 2 tumbling downwards in a poof of smoke, then tower 1. Somehow hearing about it on the radio hadn't made it real, but seeing it was another thing entirely.
"That's it," I said. "I'm going home."
No one objected.
The next few hours were anxious, as I still couldn't get through to anyone in the family. It's funny now - I really should have just checked my hotmail while I was at work, because I would have known everyone was fine right away (Mom sent a mass "we're fine" email), but I didn't think of it while I was at work, and when I went home, I was trying to leave the phone line open in case there was news, so I didn't want to sign on and tie up the line (we didn't have broadband then.) Maybe six hours later the one sister that wasn't in the city called me to tell me that mom and dad were home and ok, Ruthy was home and ok, and Anucha was stranded at the office in Midtown with no way to get home to NJ because they had sealed off all entries and exits to NY, not to mention there really wasn't any transportation running at all by then. I listened as various reports came in from around the world - some expressing horror at what had happened, some just saying - dude, we didn't do it. (interestingly enough, two "dude, we didn't do it's" originally came from the Taliban and Iraq.)
Later that day beatgoddess
, Monica and I went to Stop and Shop to pick up some stuff, and in the parking lot I walked into the rusty tailpipe of a truck, which took a deep gouge out of my left shin. It was so deep that it never filled back in right - there's still a depression in the skin there. It was also so deep that the flesh there (when the cut wasn't filled with blood) was paper white - I remember horrifying beatgoddess by holding it up and saying "see, you really can get the black off is you scrape hard enough." Heh. I still call it my September 11th scar.
For a little while after that I became a news junkie, watching the footage of that second plane barrelling into 2 WTC and then both of them falling over and over, not quite believing that a major part of my childhood was suddenly gone. I have so many memories of being a kid with my parents shopping at the concourse, the couple of years where my sister worked in the Governor's office in one of the towers, and the couple of times when the entire family had gone to Windows on the World to celebrate one thing or another - I remember being very little and having Dad walk me around all the windows in the restaurant to look at the view of New York. Cars look like ants from that high, and you can't see people at all.
New York has changed so much in the decade or so since I left it, this being the most jarring change of all. I'm thankful me and mine were unharmed that day. I still lost something. I went back a couple of months later and it was so strange, not seeing them there, even when you know you're looking in the right direction. The scary part was that in that moment you realize it's hard to remember what they looked like when they were
there. People don't look directly at buildings - they're just part of the scenery, taken for granted, until one terrible day they go poof.
I am home sick today, and listening to traffic moving outside. sundart
is telling me about the latest antics of the cats. Pretty much, other than the headlines and the fact that I can see the top of the Amherst Common flagpole but not the flag itself (must be at half staff) life has moved on from September 11th. No one's forgotten, of course. But like all things, time lessons the pain and shock the more it passes, and we are all different people than we were five years ago. It is almost hard to believe that at this exact time, on an equally beautiful Tuesday morning, the world came to a screeching halt, and as Rotten.com so tastefully put it "all of creation went completely batshit today." (The headline for that article was "Everything Goes Fucko-Bazoo" and was about a paragraph long. beatgoddess printed it out and laminated it, and it may still be in her bathroom for all I know. "Fucko-bazoo" and "batshit" have since entered my general lexicon.) I'm pretty sure in another ten or fifteen years, they'll make September 11 into another memorial day... the monday before it will be "September 11th - observed" and then there will be the last barbecue of the season, where you get rid of all the leftover hamburger from Labor Day. Or something. *chuckle* But for now... remembrance. and a quiet moment for the 4000ish souls that lost their lives that day in service to the political pursuits of various madmen.