Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remember

Seven years ago tonight, Gwen and I were in our apartment on 79th Street in Manhattan with Madison, who at the time was just shy of 6-months-old. Earlier in the afternoon, we'd been joined by my younger sister and her boyfriend - now husband - who had abandoned their place downtown for the comparative safety and security of the Upper East Side. We drank red wine and watched the news in a state of shock and disbelief, while Madison slept in her crib in the room next door.

As I was approaching my office building in Rockefeller Center that morning - it was a beautiful day - I noticed a small group of people huddled around a transistor radio and thought it was odd, but I walked on by. Then the elevator doors opened and I exited to find basically my entire firm standing around the bank of televisions in our reception area. The faces told the story before I even looked up at the screens and saw the burning buildings. A woman whose husband worked in the World Trade Center frantically rushed back to her office to try to reach him on the phone, she never did. At some point people wandered away from the waiting area and went off in their respective directions.

I called Gwen, who was completely unaware - she was sitting in our apartment watching Baby Einstein videos with Madison. She asked if I was coming home, I told her no one was leaving, no one knew what was happening. I was sitting in my office when someone came into the doorway and said, "the Pentagon just got hit," it was chilling. What exactly were we dealing with here, and how far was it going to go?

The first tower came down. Then the second. We stood there together and watched in stunned silence, except for the occasional gasps, and then started to leave. I called Gwen to say I'd be home soon. When I hit Fifth Avenue and looked downtown I saw an enormous cloud of dust and smoke that reminded me of the brush fires I used to cover as a reporter out in California. Looked exactly the same. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

I walked home through crowded streets and sidewalks. People were unsettled, but there was a palpable sense that whatever this was, we were in it together. The subway was shut down, bridges and tunnels were closed, leaving the island was not an option. I picked up some food on the way, and we hunkered down and watched CNN and the local stations when Madison was napping, tried to make believe nothing was wrong when she wasn't. We left the city in the months that followed, needed more space and a lawn and a swing-set for our growing family anyway - but the attack accelerated the plan, and it changed our consciousness.

I don't think I'll ever look up at a plane cutting gracefully across the sky in exactly the same way again, and for quite a while after that day that image, formerly filled with majesty and wonder, was deeply unsettling. We came through it, like everyone else who lived through it, but it's still here. And it always will be.

6 Comments:

Blogger Katie said...

I can't even begin to imagine what it must have been like to be so near when it happened. I know that even here in Texas, where the images were only on TV, the impact was so strong.

I know exactly what you mean about the planes, too, by the way.

11:46 PM  
Blogger Sugee Andersyn said...

We put our flag at half staff today. Such a tragedy.

3:29 AM  
Blogger Single at 50 said...

Thank your for your post. I too relived that day, remembering working in my office, running to Target to get an antenna for the office tv, and standing together watching the tragedy unfold as the South Tower collapsed. I live in Illinois, but I felt your pain. I lived in Oklahoma when the tragedy there occurred. You just feel it every year.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Heather of the EO said...

I feel the same way about planes. I think about that day seven years ago every time I hear or see one. What used to be "just a plane" flying by now brings me chills more often than not.
Poignant post, mister. Well said.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Sarah :) said...

That was beautiful.
I was about 7 when the planes hit. Old enough to know what was going on, but not old enough to fully comprehend it. It's definintely won't ever forget, and it seems like you won't either.

12:19 AM  
Blogger Penny Pincher said...

The juxtaposition: I remember trying (unsuccessfully) to stop crying when my then 4-month-old was flashing me his newfound smiles and laughter. "Making believe nothing was wrong" was not an easy task.

3:23 PM  

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