Any of us who were sentient remember what we were doing that Tuesday morning. I was in my car, eastbound, halfway to work and it was sunny, which caused traffic, and I had the windows down and was listening to the radio. In between songs the DJ reported that a plane crashed into one of the towers. We weren’t informed on which building, what type of plane–though many, me included, assumed it was something small–or that this was an early portion of a greater impact. Who knew? Nobody’s mind could go that far in that direction. More news was reported about it, some things false, some things that sounded like they couldn’t be true.
They were true, of course, and I found this out once at work, in a small office, while watching the news broadcasted from helicopters flying around the initial targeted spot and then there was the other plane entering into view from the left to crash into the other building. Sitting with my coworkers, we didn’t care about our jobs. How could we? We all knew that this was bigger than ourselves and we just collectively watched, took it like a pill, not knowing how to react because we’d never had something like that to react to before. We heard news about other locations that were getting bombed and those places seemed so much further away because we were all instantly transported to New York that morning, no matter where we were watching it all from. For me, even Chicago seemed far away.
And then there was just smoke, curled in on itself, sort of what I visualized white noise looking like, and it was all so loud and so quiet, together. I became internalized and hopeful while being wise to what I knew the truth was, that nobody could’ve survived that, and then I waited. The rest of the day, the week, on and on and on would be filled with stories.
Sometime later my cousin interviewed me about my thoughts on September 11th and I think I said much of what everyone else said and then she asked how it implanted itself into me, personally, and I thought of myself as an artist, as a writer and how my emotions and sensitivities would play going forward. When we’re young, our boundaries of affect are narrow. We lose a block, get a tear in a stuffed elephant and the world falls. As we get older, different things press us in different ways and what bothered us at one point in our lives doesn’t have the same punch after those boundaries stretch. I wondered how I would react to the different happenings in my life that hadn’t materialized yet. Did facing September 11th stretch me so far that most other experiences would hit softer than they otherwise would have? What would matter?
I guess I don’t know how it ended up playing. I get happy and sad and frightened and excited like the next person but I don’t know how I’ve been forever changed by that Tuesday. Perhaps it’s a slow dilution, a minor disease that hides, though ever-present, a pin in our shoe, an itch on our wrist, something un-ignorable, something that, whether superficial or rooted deeply, will not allow us ever to forget.