Thursday, September 08, 2011

Empty Sky

I stood in my mother's Woods Hole kitchen, watching the reports trickling in on the morning news show. I remember all that initial confusion, before the pieces fell together. What kind of plane? Was it an accident? On purpose? And then that sickening moment, that second-plane-shot.

I don't really know how to deal with this 10th Anniversary. It all feels far away and yet very very fresh. Extremely personal but writ large. Self indulgent to relive it, to write about it, but important, too. My memories are the same as your memories, but different, and it's all tied in with where I was then and where I am now and all that happened during, and just before, and in between then and now.

Remember that moment before you knew it was possible for that great big tower to collapse? And then remember that moment when it came down? And then the realization that the other one would, inevitably, too? And how you couldn't help but think of all the people trapped inside? Of course you do. On the Cape it was glorious early autumn, the air was crisp, birds were singing, and on the television -- Hell on earth.

I remember those eerie, empty skies above Cape Cod over the days that followed. And reflexively watching for con trails, for signs of danger. It was blue, beautiful, rainless, and cool, and I felt hollowed out and spent.

I want a kiss from your lips
I want an eye for an eye
I woke up this morning
To an empty sky

People I knew died that day going into the towers. No one near and dear to me, but people I knew by name, who knew me by name. Brothers of friends. Other people I knew decided to take a later flight out of Logan and were miraculously, mysteriously spared. I was already in mourning for my stepmother who had died suddenly and young, just four months before. A friend from college died two years later from complications from AIDS -- specifically, a respiratory illness. He lived near the World Trade Center. I blamed Bin Laden.

My three-year-old pointed at our crushed oyster shell driveway just a few days after and said "Look, mama! Debris!" He had seen a lot of television by then. I cried a lot. He patted me on the head. My husband had already left for Texas to start his new job and our new life, to buy our new house. We talked on the phone maybe that day, maybe a day later. My panic and sense of urgency were met by his coolness and political analysis.

That life was already cracking for me, but September 11th didn't help. The gap between my experience and his was jarring and unresolvable. A few weeks later I flew with the boys to Austin, a stranger in a strange land, surrounded on the highway by pickup trucks with that same Jingoistic bumper sticker on them, purchased at Wal-Mart. I don't even remember what it said now. "These Colors Don't Run," maybe, or "Never Forget."

As if.

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