10 September 2011

Remembrance

I will never be able to forget.  For me, that day was lived in real life.  A mile away, a building with a hole the shape of an airplane.  A sudden cloud of dust and smoke where a moment ago the building had stood.

Silence.  A stream of silent, shocked witnesses walking uptown.  Military helicopters overhead.  Cars, buses, subways, el trains, cabs, planes -- everything silenced.

Phones dead, internet dead (it was all dial-up, then) and no one knew; would electricity go next? water?  Rumors flew.  I lined up with hundreds of others to give blood for which, it turned out, there was no need.

A day later, my university reopened, and I had to leave the city.  Carrying a small backpack, I walked to Penn Station -- no buses, no trains running. All the bridges and tunnels closed.  New Jersey Transit was running out of the city, but not back in; I didn't know when I'd be able to return.

Eventually, I tracked down news of various friends and family members.  In personal terms I was lucky, because no one I knew died, but that sentiment is no good to those who did lose loved ones.  I had a student whose father was one of the 343 firefighters.  I read about him in the paper.  Somehow, she made it through the term.

Today, I know it's an important commemorative weekend because of the police boats on the river and the helicopters overhead.   A red seaplane taxi-ing around on the East River near 30th Street. Police cruisers with lights on parked at odd spots all over the city.

I didn't have television then; I don't have television now.  Then, I became obsessed with the news; these past few days, I've been carefully avoiding it.  I don't want to see the pictures and the videos, I don't want to relive that day and the days that followed.

I will never forget, I can never forget, the images that remain seared against the backs of my eyeballs.  Do I wish I could?