Sunday, August 29, 2010

My Neighbors in Delrey


It has been nearly 9 years since 9/11. This one event probably defines the lives of an entire generation.

Last night I was parking the car in the barn, and I realized I left the radio on in the barn. I went to shut it off, in the dark, the way being lit only by the parking lights of my car. As I approached the radio this song started to play. It haunted me, for a number of reasons.

Like post-traumatic stress disorder, suddenly years of events started to telescope into one moment. Had we really lived through those days? It seemed so far away and yet, unreal.

I remember the day, September 11th, and my partner calling me from work. "Turn on the TV, someone flew a plane into the World Trade Center." I turned on the television and after a few moments of inane commentary (was it a private plane, or a jet?) we all saw an airline fly into the second tower.

Silence. And the realization that the world had just changed, in a way that was complete, utter, and irreversible.

I sat there by myself, making and receiving phone calls. Rumors on the TV about two other planes and then the ground shakes and I walk outside to see a plume of black smoke rising from the direction of the Pentagon.

It was a weird, odd time, in retrospect, and hard to recall. The details were buried by memory. We took the Metro liner to New York the next week, at the insistance of the Mayor of New York - the city was "open for business" he said. Front row seats on closing Broadway shows. A tour of Manhattan on an open tour bus. Walking, drawn toward "ground zero" - the smell of burning, the white powder of sheet rock. The signs on lamp posts, "Have you seen my spouse?". Empty fire houses, with their doors open, no equipment, no people, just photos and wreaths.

We returned to Washington. Anthrax. Our mail washed and dried, arriving a month late. The sniper, killing people in places we'd been to. We laughed it off, running in zig-zags from the Metro. Make it hard for him to aim. Who knows? Maybe we frustrated him.

And deep down, a decision - a need - arose. We had to leave this place. We had to move on. This was crazy.

It has been nearly a decade now. Next year, there will be bombastic 10-year anniversary displays and songs like "Proud to be an American" played. And no one will really remember what it was like. The fear, and the uncertainty of what was to come ahead.

And yet, I do remember, at the time, feeling, "we will get through this". Two buildings were not enough to sink our country. I knew that then. I know it now.

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