Have you ever tried to tell someone about a nightmare? But my mother told me to write. So, here I sit.
I can’t believe what my eyes have seen in the past week. I want to rip them out, and if I knew the memory would go with them I might just do so.
I am not sure I would even like to tell a story. But I suppose it’s a necessary part of getting over this.
September 11th, 2001 at 8:52 a.m. I walked from the N/R line in SoHo – from Prince street to Spring – where my office is located. I picked up a bagel from across the street. Upon entering the building, I saw a low-flying plane. It was headed at the World Trade Center. I thought nothing too much of it. Why on earth would I? I’m an American (I would later think), and I continued upstairs.
About 1 minute later my boss runs in and says “I think a plane just hit the World Trade Center!”
My God, my brother began his job yesterday. My God, I wonder if I will eat my bagel now. My God, I need to call Gerry and see if he’s heard about this. My God, why didn’t I stop them. I wonder if I’ll be able go away this weekend? My god, my brother is down there. FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK.
I pick up the phone thinking that on this clear day in September the pilot just missed. Yes, he must have missed. Fallen asleep at the wheel, lost site of the runway. Missed. I call my brother. He is down there. He might know more. The lines are full. (As they should be.) I boot up my computer. I get on line. I do what anyone else might do – wait for someone to tell me where to go or what to do.
Another woman runs in, “A plane just hit the other tower!” Panic. I pick up the phone again. I call Ryan’s cell. I can’t get through. I can’t get through. I can’t get through. My brother is down there. My little brother is down there. I can’t get through. I run to the window. Redial redial redial redial. I watch the World Trade Center burn. THIS IS THE PLACE I LOVE. THIS IS THE PLACE I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE!
I can’t take photos of this. No photograph will ever capture this memory, this nightmare. None. The mere thought of photographing this made me feel horrible. It was too pornographic.
I have my dad’s number on redial. I have my mother’s number on the other. I have a very, very wonderful friend talking me through all of this, (I thank you, a dear soul) helping me out, as my coworkers were doing a lot of the same. I get through to my mother. I tell her, “I am doing what I can to find him.” I can’t imagine what she is going through at this point. (I am so sorry, Mom).
I hang up with her. I am still phoning my brother. My cell phone seems to be my best out. (Thank you, AT&T). My father calls.
My father is not an overly emotional man. And he has had a rough few months. If you know him, you already know how close this strong man might be to giving up. He says, in an eerie, calm voice, slowly but steadily, “Michele, I am so scared.” We hang up. I continue to call. I get through.
I found Ryan.
He’s told to stay put, that it’s not safe to leave. I tell him, “leave anyway! Head a few blocks up towards me. Just walk up Broadway.” He says he’s going to wait until they let him go. (I let him go. If I hadn’t let him go, this might not be happening. He’s my little brother, I should have taken better care of him).
I hang up. I have good news for Mom. I call her. I tell her he is fine. He is down there, but he is fine. She wants to call my father. (I am so very sorry, Dad).
My coworkers and I are standing at the window watching the World Trade Center burn. And there is this woman over the radio, her voice still haunts me, and probably will forever. I will never be able to put into words, to explain just how horribly terrified she sounded. (I am so very sorry, you poor woman, if I could hug you, I would).
“My dear God, the building is falling.”
It sounds so meaningless. But it brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it. I suppose she made it my reality, as I have seen nothing more terrifying with my own eyes. Like right now, I have to look away for a bit..
The Comfort of Strangers
I am on a train, miles from nyc, headed to Toronto to visit someone I hardly know. I don’t know why I am doing this. I can’t imagine living without my friends and my family. But they scare the shit out of me right now. They really do. And I am not sure why. Perhaps they’re too close to me right now. Is that possible? Is it actually possible? There is a part of me that wants someone to tell me why I am acting the way I am. But there are so many others who are so more effected by this and they need the help more. But I hope that it goes away sometime soon.
“My dear God, the building is falling.”
My brother is down there. My little brother. (I wanted you to be a girl when you were born, did you know that? And for a second, I have to admit, I was disappointed when mom told me you were a boy. But I was six years old and I hope you can forgive me for that now). My baby brother is down there.
The next two hours are a total blur. I am wiped. I try calling him over and over again. And I get nothing. I sit in the window and watch the papers float over the city like snow. And I feel horrible now for thinking it was beautiful. A cloud comes rolling up Broadway as if it alone were about to destroy this magnificent city. People are running for their lives.
People are running for their lives.
“A plane just hit the pentagon.”
Oh my god, my older brother is there. I call my mom. There is only so much strength I have been granted for this life and I feel as though that day might be the day it ran out. What happens then? I get through after about 30 tries. “Have you heard from Rob?” “Yes, he is fine.” “Ok. I have to find Ryan still.”
“The other building is falling.”
I am watching these huge, magnificent towers fall to the ground and my mind won’t really allow me to comprehend. Thank you, mind, for numbing me to the horror as I sit watching. And I am angered. New York… I love New York. I moved here – to be HERE. They just ripped its heart out.
My coworkers are looking for numbers and contacts and names and family members. It’s not really happening. This isn’t really happening.
In the past week, I have seen love stronger than I could ever have imagined. I have seen strangers come up to strangers just to help out. I have seen the homeless realize their life isn’t so bad in comparison, to that day. I have seen people hug who have never met. I have seen people let someone (and me) say something irrational and nasty and let it be. And I do hope people aren’t able to forget this. At the forefront of all of this hatred, I have seen love. And because of that, I am here right now. I refuse to give up and I refuse to let these bastards win. And because of this love, they have lost.
I can’t imagine what others may have seen that day. I am having trouble comprehending all of this myself. And I do hope that someone is there for them when they return somewhere better. And I have no doubt someone will be.
I can’t say what hasn’t already been said. I can’t imagine what others may not be writing. I just hope that I can somehow help out.
I am forever devoted to this city.
And my little, baby brother is ok. Damnit, little guy, I love you dearly.
This is for you.