Everyone has a story. Some are really graphic. Some are rather nieve. Some are of fear. Some are of hope. Some are of reality. Some were born of dreams.
Mine living and working in the tri-state nine years ago is nothing I care to speak much about. (I didn’t hardly write much at all last year actually) It wasn’t as poignant as those who were literally in the shadow of the buildings like so many of my friends and a loved one were, feeling the heat, seeing the debris, breathing the smell, tasting the ash and hearing everything. But it was figuratively being there, living and working right across the river and dealing with every communication shutdown, road closure, flyby, refugee, visual image, aural experience and non television induced iconography that came from those 24 hours.
I am still not well.
In the aftermath 9 years later I am not as ruined as those who lost loved ones directly from the experience and I cannot pretend to understand what they continue to go through as their memories are turned into partisan politics, religions motifs and sociocultural idealism. It is unarming to even consider how much their emotions are toyed with in the name of more collection plate money, more tax money and worst, more advertising dollars!
I am ruined though.
My life from that moment on took on things I may never come to grips with. I watched the second plane hit from only a handful of miles away in real time. I was even closer when everyone was running away seeing the buildings come crashing down in real time. I could smell it, taste it, feel it. And was completely in horror of it as I saw it. It shoot me to the bone. I knew people who commuted in and out of WTC station daily. I knew people who should have been on those lines at that time. I knew people who worked in those buildings and around them and I was supposed to be in that area around that time as well.
Does that make me better than any one else who might have felt the same emotions from hundreds or thousands of miles away? No. Absolutely not.
It does make me ultra sensitive to everything nine years later and confused and conflicted as I ever have been about it. I was one of the lucky ones. I was not there, nor were my friends, colleagues, and loved ones despite the proximity. Chance was on our sides.
I will never forget the fear of a dial tone, it still haunts me today. The sound of not being able to dial out because all circuits were dead and there was no way to even deliver that message was debilitating. even now an “all circuits are busy” moment chills me knowing that’s what everyone received when everything here went down. Not only did we lose phones, we lost major radio and television from the affair since so many towers were on the buildings. We lost cable because routers were there. We lost internet because of traffic and lack of routers and more. We had nothing at times for communication. I was dark, yet it was day. It was silent, yet there was noise. It was something that people watching and fearing from afar cannot fathom, because they might have actually “known” more at times than the people experiencing it first hand, yet that haven’t a clue what it really felt like.
I will never fell the same about giving or receiving a water bottle or other outreach effort… and as much as I didn’t like water bottles then, i like them even less now. After seeing people walking from the ferries and handing them them and the throngs that walked by. Some zombies, some petrified… many caked in dust, or drenched in sweat… unable to even react to the gesture or so overwhelmed by it it might knock you off your feet. It was aweful and imprinted things to my brain that make me fearful of even the simplest gesture knowing what it might be in relation to. I know it sounds shitty, I’m still working my way over it. I have images I cannot erase.
I will never see a skyscraper fire or a plane crash the same. And, to this day, I cannot ride NJT, PATH or MTA commuter lines without a bit of fearful skepticism that goes well beyond my normal travel paranoiaWho can, then again, how many places in the world have three major airports in 20 miles, have so many 30+ story building per square mile, have the network of transportation in any grid?
Think your commute sucks, imagine mine still, nine years later, coming through some of the biggest commuter hubs in the world here in NYC/NNJ including using WTC quite regularly (thank you A-train, if it weren’t for the love of Mr. Ellington and Mr. Strayhorn I would have been completely lost), I use Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central Terminal almost daily along with what’s left of WTC, plus NJ SEC and Hoboken Terminal and NJ-PENN, PABT/TS terminals in recent years. As bad as anyone’s commute may be, as slow, as crowded, as uncomfortable. I was on one when it happened and i knew loved ones and close friends who were also on them in the area when it happened. Thankfully we are all alive but the stories told and the images seen were enough for all of us to, well, remember.
So, when I read the hatred and the fear mongering and the dissent about thing that make that day so intimidate to me it really saddens me. Not since Pearl Harbor, which most of the current US including myself was not alive for, was there a more massive death toll and catastrophic shift in civil mindset and perhaps not since our own Revolutionary War was there such a moment that defined a nation… sadly as the moment did then it seems to now, moreso divide than bond us, the opposite such an experience as what we had at Pearl Harbor.
The charity, the welfare, the social justice the need to bond and love and come together that was momentarily bread from that experience is now lost. too much is about book burning in a rather naziesque ideal or the proximity to who might want to do what to the tower in which we ALL as human beings lost a bit of our identity so that some political or religious or whatever-social gain might be forged. The unity the moment brought is now becoming a football to punt from idea to idea,ideal to ideal… and way to exploit for gain to way to exploit for gain. and I call bullshit.