1) answering the obligatory question “where were you when you heard?” . . . I was sleeping (I was working second shift at the time) and my friend Tannel called me at about 9:30 and left a message telling me that I needed to wake up and turn on the TV because “something’s going on in NY with the World Trade Center”
2) watching TV while on the phone with Max. When the firs tower collapsed, I remember saying, “It just fell” and his disbelieving, “No, it didn’t . . . ” The idea of it falling down was so inconceivable to him (to most of us, I think.)
3) walking out of my apartment to go to work a little while later and feeling almost bombarded by the brightness of the sun. It was a perfect fall day here in Grand Rapids, just as it was in New York, and it felt so utterly incongruous . . .
4) talking to my (now deceased) ex-roommate, George, via e-mail after a bit of an impasse (we were on less-than-stellar terms when I left NY at the end of 1999) . . . on one level, it was good to talk to him, but on another level, it was annoying to hear his posturing about how Arden (our Gap district manager and my former boss–the store in the WTC was in her district) was confiding in him all the time. “Arden has kept a strong face publicly but in private has expressed her devastation to me” (sure, that may not sound to you like posturing, but trust me on this. I knew him well, and in the land of Gap assistant managers, it was all about the competition . . . )
5) hearing that Arden moved to the Philadelphia area a few years later, purportedly to have more of a chance for advancement. When I tell friends that I think she was traumatized by September 11th and that this contributed to her need for a change of venue, they don’t agree with me. But hey, I’m the one with the undergrad degree in psychology! (would you like fries with that?)
6) not knowing what to think about the words of Revelation 18.
7) hitting a point at work (after everybody seemed to want to come to me to “talk about it” all the time, I guess because I had that NYC connection) where I had to say, “I CAN’T HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS ANYMORE!” A few people expressed surprise at my reaction; I can’t remember who it was that said, “It’s okay if she doesn’t feel like talking about it”, but that person was a hero to me in that moment.
8. remembering all of the shopping I did in the WTC concourse. When I was home visiting just ten days prior to the attacks, I had purchased a Barbie doll for my friend’s daughter in the Warner Brothers store there. I also ate a donut at Krispy Kreme and a hot dog from a vendor in front of 7 WTC.
9) realizing that I’m lucky in the scheme of things, and yet I still try to reach for a connection. One such connection is that the guy on the right in that well-known picture that became a stamp is the brother of another guy that I went to elementary school with.
10) going back to New York for the first time in January of 2002 for my grandmother’s funeral. As I was driving in New Jersey along the Turnpike, I started to freak out because I couldn’t orient myself . . . there was this huge hole in the skyline and without those two buildings that were supposed to be there as a demarcation point, I was engulfed by a huge sense of loss and panic.
11) hearing these lyrics to a Julie Miller song . . . I think the song was written before 2001, but the second verse seems like it was written just for that day . . .
I`m making flowers out of paper
while darkness takes the afternoon
I know that they won`t last forever
but real ones fade away too soon
I still cry sometimes when I remember you
I still cry sometimes when I hear your name
I said goodbye and I know you`re all right now
but when the leaves start falling down I still cry
It`s just that I recall September
It`s just that I still hear your song
It`s just I can`t seem to remember
forever more those days are gone