This morning, I found myself on Twitter, reading a lot of reflections on the collapse of the Twin Towers. Usually, I don’t write about 9/11 because I don’t feel like it impacted me as profoundly as it has many of my friends, friends who were there, friends who lost loved ones, friends who’ve since gone to war. In short: it’s never felt like my story. It’s never felt like something I’ve earned the right to write about. But today, it just happened.
These are my tweets.
here’s where i was: in an elevator, surrounded by suits & secretaries. “someone bombed the world trade center.” “again?” was the bland reply.
we were expecting to arrive in our respective offices to find news of a corridor or even a floor taken out by a small handmade explosive.
my own boss sent our office home. “go be with your families,” he said, clearly speaking to himself, having forgotten he wasn’t alone.
we scattered, with words rapping woodenly against our intellect. “one of the towers collapsed!” “oh God, the other one, too?”
we couldn’t fathom it–and without footage, with only words to paint the picture, it hardly seemed real.
at the time, i was living in a foreclosed house with my mother, every day fearing the arrival of a sheriff and eviction minions.
when i called my mother to tell her i needed to be picked up, she was wholly annoyed b/c she’d just dropped me off.
“they sent us home b/c of the world trade center bombings?” i said, words like “collapse” receding under my vision of a small-scale attack.
“somebody bombed that place *again?*” mom said. she huffed, “fine; i’ll pick you up at the train station.”
the streets of baltimore were all but empty at 9:30 am. the deserted thorofares were what first struck fear in us.
9/11 wouldn’t be real for me until 10 am, when i got home, sat in front of a TV and didn’t move until 10 pm.
i was afraid to pee. afraid to eat. afraid to leave the foot of my mother’s mattress.
we sat there, watching peter jennings report himself parched & haggard, with rolled sleeves & red rimmed eyes, w/tears caught in his throat.
“the people who jumped, ” mom whispered, “some of them were flapping their arms.” determined to fly.
mom swore she heard bin laden say, “i did not do this thing. but praise allah.” i’ve still never heard this. i wonder if it was imagined.
i wonder if our hearts heighten villainy when our eyes and ears disbelieve it.
years later, i lived in yonkers. @feministtexican & i could see twin shafts of light shuttling into the firmament, from lamps in manhattan.
@feministtexican and i were determined to get to ground zero that year. “let’s go see the lights!” we got stuck in traffic.
we detoured first, for cupcakes.
we didn’t make it till midnight. no longer 9/11.
but there were still lingerers, poring over the pictures and withering petaled bouquets. the lights still coursed toward some spot above sky.
i remembered a weeping CEO who blamed himself for being out of the office the day he lost all his employees.
i remembered a 20/20 profile on all the immigrant workers who lost their lives that morning, working their shifts at Windows on the World.
i never write abt 9/11. so i don’t know what made me do it just now.
there are things i’m leaving out, like how i called a frenemy to make sure she was okay. she answered, agitated and spooked.
said she was walking from manhattan to brooklyn b/c the trains were closed and the roads were gridlocked.
she described the sediment, rolling like clouds.
that day, as always, i envied her.
it was a child’s envy: there she was, centered amid the mythos, while i was at the foot of a mattress, unable even to imagine her experience.
(i hate writing honestly.)
and i’m not even being *as* honest as i should be. i haven’t talked abt how my mother and i laughed that day.
laughed the way family laughs at repasts.
i haven’t confessed my wry commentary while @feministtexican and i were bumper to bumper with mourners.
i didn’t mention how my own drama diminished my ability to absorb the full impact of the images i watched that day.