Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It was a beautiful day...

11 years ago today, I voted for the 1st time in my first major...primary election I think.  That morning is really sketchy for me because, to be quite honest, early-morning-September 11th may as well have happened on a different day or in a different universe.  It took a couple of days after the fact to even remember that I had voted at all.

But I digress.  The day started dark and chilly -- exactly what you'd expect early in September -- but turned into a truly gorgeous day.  By the time I got to school for my 8:30am class, people were already commenting about how lovely it was.  My Philosophy prof walked in late, as usual, and announced with something of a smile that a plane had just crashed into one of the World Trade Centers.  Curious looks along with curious chatter abounded -- really? a plane? I bet that was funny looking -- and then class went on.

I didn't have class right after Philosophy...or at least I think I don't.  The moment I was outside, I knew something was wrong.  There were too many people on the quad, a relatively small space compared to quads in other schools I'm sure, and all the conversation was wrong, wrong, wrong.  It was nervous.  It was furtive.  There were lots of milling groups, too many of them looking unhappy for early-September.  My CD walkman (hey, it was 11 years ago!) had a radio feature, and so I turned it on.  And was looking...and looking...and looking.  I don't remember if my primary local news station is the one I picked up.  By the time I got to the building where my club was housed in the basement, I'd gotten something for sure.

They weren't biplanes that had crashed into the Towers.

I went downstairs.  I asked for more news from my friends.  People came in and out.  We tried to call our friends and family.  We were befuddled.  People kept coming in and out.  Including us.  Should we go to class?  Were there still classes.  What the heck was going on?  Classes were canceled.  I can't remember how we found that out.  (I know where I was when the planes hit, but the rest of my day is a lot of fuzz with spots of super-sharp clarity.)  I couldn't get home.  I was a commuter student and the trains weren't running.  So what to do?  We hung around campus for a while.  A long while.

We went to one of the newspaper offices.  I worked there at the time.  We had friends there.  We watched the Towers fall there.  I wish I knew what time it was when it happened so that I could tell you whether or not I actually did watch the Towers fall on tv...not so much to share this news with you, but so that I would know for myself.  Because this is one of those fuzzy moments.  We actually stayed at the newspaper office for some time (or so it felt).  I watched the Towers fall a few times.  Or at least I think I did.  I can't really say.

Then we needed something else to do...we couldn't watch anymore, the room was small and hot and stank.  It was a gorgeous day outside.  We decided we should donate blood because they were going to need it downtown.  They didn't want it.  (I actually wouldn't give blood for the first time until this past Spring, at which point I'd also nearly pass out.  Apparently, I'm a lightweight.)

We kept going back to our club office because, for most of us, it was our home away from home.  Here's a clear memory, made clearer by hindsight: The first time we went out, before we had a full understanding of how bad it was, we could smell burning and there was paper floating in the air.  Our general reaction as we walked past the High School across the street: "Stupid kids!  Don't they know what's happening?  How could anyone be burning paper now?!"  It wasn't until later, catching pieces of the ever-present news coverage (I couldn't watch it religiously the way my mother did), that I realized it was the Towers we smelled burning, and office paper from the Towers we saw floating around our heads.  But that was days later.

Eventually they were kicking people off campus.  There was a car service being used for students, but my friend and I lived in Manhattan...nothing was going over bridges yet.  It was early afternoon?  I guess at some point we all ate.  Another friend, one of my "brothers", who lived near school and had already gone home picked us up and took us home with him.  He might have fed us.  I don't remember.  I'm pretty sure we met his dad.  We might have met his sister.

They re-opened the bridges.  My friend and I could go home.  I can't tell you how we got there.  I think we did our regular route out of the borough, but got stuck at one of the major hubs.  Phones were down....I forget what time I actually got my mom.  I think at the newspaper office.  I think again before we got on the train (pretty sure the "brother" drove me and the friend to a nearby train station) , and I'm pretty sure again when I got above ground a few hours later.  It took forever to get home.

I left home at around 6:30am, I got home at after 7pm.  Speaking to Mom that last time, in view of my apartment, nose filled with the stench of lower Manhattan, she told me that the Towers had collapsed.  I'd seen it, several times in fact, at the newspaper office.  But it wasn't until she said it to me, hours and hours later that it became real.

And that's what I was doing 11 years ago on a Tuesday.

(I hadn't meant to post about this.  I usually don't, though I wrote a poem about it still burning 2 months later on my birthday years ago.  We had a memorial service for it at work, however, and the day was eerily similar in it's beauty.  And it's Tuesday...  It hit me in a way it often doesn't.  Anywho, it's helped me somewhat.)

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