"We're all hurt," he said. "We're all damaged. We're all very, very angry. And we're all feeling the loss of heroes that we love." - Rudy Giuliani, May 19, 2004
Every so often I get days like today where itís right there
. 9/11 stares at me from every corner and crevice, it envelops every sentence, every thought and it drives a chariot through my nerves, leaving them raw and bleeding.
Thereís usually a reason; this monster doesnít just leap up out of nowhere like it used to. Lately, itís been the 9/11 hearings but sometimes it is as simple as a dream that carries with it the memories I thought I buried, or perhaps itís the weather. A blue sky, a warm wind, the temperature set at early spring. Thatís all it takes sometimes for the day to appear the same.
Iíve been able to brush the days off, mostly. I email Faith
because we share this proclivity for wearing our 9/11 memories very close to the skin. I didnít mail her today; sheís on vacation and I donít want to bring her the one thing sheís trying to get away from.
So I sit and think and write and stare out the window. The sky is a perfect blue. An airplane is approaching - I hear it before I see it. It glides overhead, casting a very quick shadow over the block. The shadow is gone before the plane is, and I watch it carefully, imagining that itís banking the wrong way or going too fast or flying too low.
Ironically, itís not the sound or sight of low flying planes that gives me the most pause. Itís the lack of planes. When the sky is empty - which is not often just miles from Kennedy and LaGuardia - I find myself holding my breath. I wait.
In the days right after 9/11, it was the absence of noise in the sky that made the nightmare scenario so stark. No airplanes, no thunderous approaches, no whistling take-offs. The complete silence made the world a surreal, empty field. When the planes started flying again, they made noises like bullets and bombs; that is what my ears heard, anyhow. My skin would break out in little bumps of fear. Sometimes I would put down whatever I was doing and swiftly walk inside the house. Often times, I saw my neighbors do the same. They would look towards the sky, stare at the plane for maybe a moment and then the rake would drop and my neighbor would be in the house before the clang of the rake hitting the floor stopped.
Almost three years later and we have learned to love the sound of flight. The thunder of a jet engine is welcome, it means all is ok. Itís the prolonged silences that disturb us. Have the planes been grounded? Why are there no planes in the sky?
My sister will call from her office and whisper, I havenít seen a plane in half an hour
This is my residue of September 11th. I live with it, some days more than others. I live with the pain, the sadness and the anger that have sometimes consumed me since that day. There are some who say I have no right to those feelings. I was not there. I was miles away, watching the burning sky from a distance safe from the inevitable fall of the towers.
There are some who say that you donít have the right to grieve or feel anger. You live in Arkansas or London or Canada. You did not know anyone who died. Youíve never even been to New York. But they have the right, of course, because their brotherís best friendís teacherís cousin died that day and therefore their grief and their anger is more important, more certifiable than yours.
I did not know anyone who was in the Murrah building when it exploded, yet I still cry for the victims. I donít remember anyone trying to deny the nationís collective grief over that tragedy.
So why 9/11? Why has this become a polarizing event, one where certain people feel the need to line us up according to grief size and determine that only the people at the head of the line get a pass on being angry or sad?
I took 9/11 personally not because I knew people who died that day, but because it was
personal. My city was attacked. My state was attacked. My country was attacked. This was not an attack on your wife or cousin or neighborís stockbroker specifically. It was on all of us, every last one of us, left or right, black or white, in Nebraska or Georgia. My country. My pride. My safety. My childrenís future. No, not just MY. Ours. Our country. Our pride. Our safety. Our future.
Nobody has the right to tell you that you canít be pissed off that this happened. Nobody has the right to say that your emotions are any less valid because you saw the towers fall from television.
I am still astounded at how these attacks divided us rather than bring us together. Itís only gotten worse; the hearings have made it so that people are lining up on sides that I never imagined existed. I donít think anyone imagined on September 11, 2001 that there would be a Blame Bush movement when the smoke cleared. I certainly canít imagine that anyone would have been able to predict a blame Giuliani force, or that major D.C. players would be mocking the efforts of the NYPD and NYFD.
When the day comes back to me in full force, as it has today, I have this added sense of loss to go with it now. Not just people I knew. Not just 3,000 victims. Not just the hole in the face of New York. We have lost something even greater since then and it kicks me in the gut every time I wake up and feel like 9/11 all over again. It was hard enough to face these days knowing that the images cemented in my head would do their free float again. Now I add to that the grieving I do for all of us, for this country and the future of it. When did we become so embittered that even the topic of grieving over a loss of thousands of your countrymen and women is a battle in and of itself, that instead of assigning blame to the forces that broke us, we gather in meeting halls with torches ready to burn each other?
A nation divided
. Who would have thought that an act of war could force us into a war of our own? I certainly would never have ventured to guess that we would be fighting over the right to our rage, fear and tears, that's for sure.