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looking back

Continuing with the blogaversary party, I'll be reposting various things I've written over the past two years that mean something to me or explain in part why I blog. This one is from September 5, 2002.

Three Years Later: Moving Forward

My cousin Stan's tattoo. Stan is a Lt. with the NYFD in the hazmat unit. He spent several weeks at the cleanup site, coming home only to shower and sleep for an hour or so. He is retiring from the FD next month

The thing I remember most about the early part of that day is the weather. It was a perfect day; the sky was a deep, cloudless blue and the air was filled with the comforting warmth that comes when summer starts slinking into autumn.

What I remember most about the moments after the news broke was my drive home from work. I fled my federal office building in a panic that day, still not sure if more attacks were coming, if they were happening elsewhere, if the world was ending. I drove east, towards my home, but kept looking back in my rear view mirror at the brown, smoky haze filling the sky. My hands were shaking and tears were streaming down my face and I was frightened, so frightened, because we didn't know. We did not know what would come next, or if that was the end. I looked at every car that drove next to me, at every other driver at the stop lights. They were all crying or wide-eyed or clutching their steering wheel so hard I could see their knuckles turning white.

When I got home, I woke Justin, who was still sleeping after spending all night working on a project. In my fear and disbelief, I blurted out something like, wake up the world is ending, and we turned on the television and stared for hours and I just remember this numbness going through me, the goosebumps of fear and horror that rose on my arms. Justin's mother called from Pennsylvania. It was her birthday. We talked to her for a while, assured her we were ok and then she told us to stock up on toilet paper. There was no point in wishing her a happy birthday.

What I remember most about the subsequent days is the sky and the silence. The roar of planes is a constant soundtrack when you live so close to an airport. But for those days, four of them I believe, there was not a sound coming from the skies. The silence was so huge, so cavernous, and the only thing you could see when you looked up to the sky was thin wisps of smoke rising from the west. Those days seemed like they were lived out in a dream world.

What I remember most about the nights are the candles. On the sidewalks and curbs, on stoops and porches and stairs and driveways, lined up like soldiers of flame. It was beautiful and sad, so very sad and I wondered how far a line of candles would stretch if we lit one for every victim, and the family members of every victim.

I remember these things because I never forget anything. I have never forgotten the night when my family stood out on the porch, flipping the porch light on and off in some odd celebration when the Vietnam War ended. I can remember what Natalie was wearing the day the Gulf War started - the day she took her first steps. I remember air raid drills in grammar school, questioning the futility of holding your head between your legs as bombs were going off and thinking that if it ever did come down to that, I was just going to run for it, out the front door of the school, up the slope, across the street and down the block all the way home where I would hold my mother tight and she wouldn't make me spend my last moments crouched in a hallway.

I keep every memory locked away, not just the big parts of the memories, but the little things too; the way the air felt, the way the sky looked, the smells and sounds that shared the moment with me. I write it all down, every last detail and I never forget anything.

What I remember about the first few nights after that day was hugging my children a little too tight, a little too often. I remember clinging to Justin and walking across the street to my parents' house every few minutes and just sitting there with them, not saying anything, just staring at the tv and crying. I remember feeling like one big walking cliche when I told everyone how thankful I was to have them in my life.

What I remember most about the next month is thinking how much this space meant to me at that time. How the people who read this weblog embraced me in my sadness and fear, how my words came to mean something to various people, how I had a place to get it all down, every last detail, every last sigh and tear, and how important it became to share. One year later, I still have that need, it is still important to me, and I will still continue to record every memory so that some day, I will remember everything; not just the funerals and memorial services and falling bodies and crumbling cement and steel, but the candles and the voices lifted in song and any glimpses of hope and love that lay among the rubble of the day.

Comments

And you will help us remember as well.

speechless