September 11, 2007
six years
When the anniversary of September 11, 2001 arrives each year, I consume as much of the coverage of the day’s event as I can. I listen to NPR, watch every bit of documentary footage, and read and review pictures and print. Some part of me knows that the draw has to do with a pull toward crime and the macabre. A bigger part of me wants to take time away from the discussion of Britney’s paunch and my own indulgences to gain some perspective and remind myself that this did happen. Planes hit buildings. A jet inverted at more than 500 miles an hour and plowed into the grass in Pennsylvania. People received phone calls from coroners asking them to identify the hands and feet of their loved ones. It isn’t idle curiosity that makes me want to see more, to know more. I feel like I have to expose myself to as much of this as is possible, as if almost by repetition alone I’ll have been witness to this myself, that it will mean something, that it won’t seem so removed and distant.

I hate that remoteness, the detachment that I have for all of this. I hate that I watched for a full 90 minutes a special on those who jumped from the Twin Towers, and that the images didn’t really bother me. It’s hard just to type that. I didn’t cry when I saw their contorted bodies in successive high-zoom images spiraling at high speed through the sky. I’m numb. What they must have faced in those buildings, what the promise of that alternate death must have looked like to make them choose plunging to the pavement as the better option – it does not register. I simply watched, frozen, incredulous, only crying when their families told stories of who the dead had been. How they had loved their two young sons or how they repeatedly showered the living with knowing I love yous in those final minutes. I don’t know how to explain that. The numbness. It somehow feels like a failure.

With close ties to both NYC and DC, I sometimes feel like a failure that I wasn’t in either place at the time. I was in a hospital in central Florida without a television set. I didn’t see the towers fall until I got home that night, blocked by news sites that simply couldn’t hold the weight of the world’s interest. I didn’t bear witness like everyone else did that day. I’m still trying to.

Maybe if my air conditioning had been shut off due to smoke streaming in from the Pentagon, as my parents’ was, this would seem more real to me. Maybe if dozens of commuters’ cars at my NJ train station were ultimately hauled away unclaimed after a series of weeks, as they were in my sisters’ town, the magnitude of this would register. Would break the skin. Then again, maybe it’s a blessing not to feel it.


Blogger Jorge said...

You've made reference to the numbness before.

I don't really think there is anything wrong with it. I mean, we all need to feel detached to an extent, or we would all break down and no one would be able to move on. I also don't think you're completely numb, either, otherwise it wouldn't bother you to write that it doesn't bother you to see it.

Consider the other extreme. Consider those who feel too much, and were not even there!

I know people who had the Television on 24/7 watching the tragedy over and over and weeping openly, but not really knowing why.

I wonder sometimes if people try to find meaning in tragedy. If they use it to try and fit into the group.

I feel remorse for the tragedy of 9/11. But disasters of far greater magnitude (with far less media coverage) have occured in my lifetime.

I chose to live for the people who can't, and make the most of what I've been lucky enough to experience in my life.

Blogger Gwen said...

What Jorge said.

Blogger EDW said...

Oh, baby. Plenty of us bore witness for you. There's a whole generation to do it, and you have and will bear witness to plenty more, big and small, in your lifetime. I wish I didn't cry for 8 months straight, or dissolve into tears when I listen to the names, all of them, every year. But I can still see Manhattan that day, I can still see the people who got on the ferry and the trains with me, the ones covered in it. The cars left, the flowers placed for fallen friends by grown men crying, the names of my classmates. So you don't have to take this one on. You've got plenty to feel for in your lifetime.

Blogger flutter said...

Just because it doesn't wreck you doesn't mean you aren't affected. Numbness simply means that you've put it in a place where you can think about it and function.

Otherwise the numbness wouldn't bother you.

I do the same thing each year. Like watching the same familiar scenes forces me to remember that day 6 years ago. I feel like I owe it to myself to remember, and to remember what life was before that day. To remember those who lost their lives, and the impact it still has on their families lives all these years later. I don't think we'll ever be able to pry ourselves away from remembering 9/11, or even the images that never cease to numb me anymore.

We are resiliant and proud, still. And we hope that someday there will come a time when life can return to that feeling we had on September 10, 2001.

Sadly, a feeling we may never find again.

Blogger The Middle Child said...

I remember that day like it was yesterday.

Thank you for your thoughts on it. I can identify with the numbness.


Blogger The Hotfessional said...

Kris, I think as many people feel like you do as feel the other extreme.

To me, the feelings are more about how I spent time with my family and how my midwestern neighbors behaved ...

The shock of the actual sights dim with the realization that never before, and never since, have the American people treated each other as well as they did at that time.

Blogger Julie Pippert said...

I think everyone has their own story and own feelings of that day for different reasons. I want to respect the day and its meaning for so many people personally but today, honestly? I nearly missed it. I put up my draft blog post saved for today and after posting noticed...huh, I happened to put up a post about a medieval Islamic poet on 9-11; hope that doesn't chap any hides. It was true coincidence. So I added a note that I kept this post because it was about living.

This is different; in years past, it was still pretty emotional for me.

Jorge has a good point.

But, also, I am not into CompetiTragedy. There are no winners in that.

There are other horrors right now, tragedies big and horrific, as well as before and after 9-11-01.

They are all catastropic. I don't think you need to grade or qualify sadness and horror.

Using My Words

Blogger Jorge said...

Julie - good point.

Just to clarify - I didn't mean what I said in a way that introduced competition. I meant it more in a way that spoke of general tragedy, and how it's all relavent.

My wife (then fiancee) and I were overseas at the time, and didn't find out until several days later.

It was surreal.
I felt helpless.
Just like I felt helpless during Katrina, and the Tsunami.

Which is what makes everything and everyone around me that much more important, regardless of the disaster.

Barking Space

Blogger playfulinnc said...

I refuse to turn on the TV today. I was at the gym this morning with the chattiest woman I know, and could avoid the FOX news the YMCA always has in front of my favorite machine.

Oh, I don't watch the news. I read blogs. Real life is hard enough.

Blogger Valerie said...

I don't talk about it on my blog. Last year, when many were participating in the individual remembrances of those who died that day, I posted a birthday wish to my sister-in-law.

I'm not sure why I don't talk about it. I remember exactly where I was. I remember everything about that day. I just don't want to write about it.

It may be that so much anger has come from the entire situation, and not just anger at those who did it, but anger at each other as well. This person doesn't think that person is patriotic enough. That person is pissed off at this one because of the war in Iraq. It was a day that brought millions of people together, only to end up dividing many of them even further in the long run. Ultimately, it makes it even more painful for me to think about. So, I guess that's why I try to avoid it.

Blogger Mamma said...

I wasn't going to talk about it today, but I feel like I have to. I don't want it to fade. I don't want those children who are growing up without parents to think we've forgotten. I drive by the Pentagon every day--the side that was hit--I can't forget.

Blogger Mia said...

I don't think seeing something like that can ever feel "real"...

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

It's a defense mechanism, sweetie. I get that way too & I was front & center in DC. Lost people I knew and worked with.

On days like 9/11 I know to expect it & the news coverage doesn't bother me so much. It's the occasional glimpses at unexpected times that get me.

Blogger Circe said...

I am so much more detached than I was that day and for the next four anniversaries. This year I didn't watch any specials or take much time remembering as I have in the past. I'm not sure how I feel about that...

Blogger WildbillthePirate said...

I was among the first rescuers at the WTC & worked for the first month at Ground Zero. I personally knew and worked with 2 of the Firemen (when they worked in FDNY-EMS)I can tell you: it's O.K. to be numbed by the enormity but don't let that stop or blind you from feeling that you have go on living. Remember the Past- Don't Relive it!
I worked to the limits of my capicity then and I will Honor the memories of my Brothers & Sisters by living the best way I know how and working with the same Professionalism, Compassion & Committment that we shared. Folks who become Professional Rescuers know that you have to be able to de-stress,decompensate and allow your fully Human Self to feel or you will be swallowed up by events and become useless to yourself and others. My only hope is that we will avoid the toxins we all were exposed to and be able to live long enough to enjoy the time we have left.

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