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sometimes it comes back

"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.

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» Scenes from the 9/11 Commission Hearings, New School University, May 19 from protein wisdom
Former Sen. Slade Gorton: "Is it not the case, Mr. Giuliani, that your ex-wife, Ms. Hanover, crashed your wedding to Ms. Nathan in May of last year -- that she was drunk and shouting vile epithets, and that she repeatedly... [Read More]

» We all always think we're safe from The Dish
Really beautiful post on the feelings surrounding 9/11 and the testimonies wherein the writer quotes Guiliani:A Small Victory - sometimes it comes back "We're all hurt," he said. "We're all damaged. We're all very, very angry. And we're all feeling [Read More]

Comments

Michele,
Good post. And while I'm not one to TRY to find a bright side in things, I think the "nation divided" bit is precisely because the majority of Americans don't like war and would rather we not be at war and would rather it all go away. Some take an ostrich approach and I almost don't begrudge these people. Others are simply idealists. (I'm leaving out the blatantly anti-American types.) And the rest of us (and here, I tend to leave out the nuke 'em all types)? I think of us as the adults... and we have the painful and sometimes-frustrating-as-hell job of trying quiet down the class and make them get serious about their lessons and work long enough to get the dang job done. And everyone's tired and cranky, the kids having fits and the adults at wits' end.
I also think (and you know this already) being a member of the blogosphere doesn't help. I talk to my folks and friends back home and I'm continually amazed how they don't know or care about the latest scandal to break on Drudge, they've never heard of the so-called vocal anti-war and anti-U.S. forces. They take the evening news with a grain of salt, pray that their boys and girls in the Armed forces are okay, bitch a little about the war, but pull for their country overall and definitely during crunch-time.
It just gets hard to see it from New York. I know it's hard to see it in Brooklyn.
But I'll bet you five bucks we pull through and the adults win. Just gotta keep soldiering on.

A nation divided. Who would have thought that an act of war could force us into a war of our own?

If you think it's bad now, wait until the next attack.

Ken--I'll take that bet.

Sure thing Allah. Glad to see you're still alive.

And it's not like we started out that way -- more than 80% of Americans approved of invading Afghanistan if the Taliban didn't offer up al-Qaeda on a platter.

What do you think went wrong?

Michelle,
Your honesty of emotions though expected by now as a long time reader is still jarring. I feel compelled to share something. An excerpt of a long letter I wrote to my family on the 2 year anniversary of 9/11. By fate of circumstance an aunt and cousin were not at work that day, an uncle got off at a different PATH stop and a cousin escaped from the 34th floor of the South Tower. It tooks 4 hours to get ahold of my uncle and cousin:

"Attacks on your family harden you like that I guess. Attacks on your country. The slaughter of unarmed civilians. The endless faces and the those horrible images of bodies falling. It's a coldness that I would have found disappointing even reprehensible before that day. But it sits there, the companion of the rage. The rage is perfectly comfortable hiding. It is almost as if it waits for its moment to pounce. You half expect it to leave you from overuse. It's been two years for crissakes, how many times can I get that angry about the same thing. It's as if the wound were still fresh and hurts to even move. Maybe part of me wants it that way. A way of perversely paying homage to those who died. Or maybe their remembrance can't be separated from those who caused their demise. Perhaps time is in fact the only remedy and I haven't allowed it to work yet. Hope it also said springs eternal. But as it stands now another year has passed and for me the boiling cauldron remains full. Tempered little by time, perhaps never to subside. I can't justify it, I can't rationalize it. Someday I may acheive peace but for now I just have to accept it. People including me have said Never Forget! What I didn't realize is that I couldn't if I tried. Especially one day a year."

We Americans have always argued. Look at our earliest history: arguments. Look at the Civil War, Indian policies, land use, Westward expansion, monopolies and trusts, Federalists v. anti-Federalists: arguments galore. That's what makes us so wonderful! We get to argue all we want, and only once did it all blow up in our faces (and I'm glad the Civil War was fought, because there's no other way to overcome such levels of evil than to fight it). Civil rights are still being argued. Gay rights are now being argued.

And you know what? Our arguments have almost always led to more and more of us having more and more freedom. If we all believed in the same way to enact our values, we'd be on the clear and easy path to becoming one of those countries we hate. All Americans pretty much want the same things, though we disagree with how to get there. We're like a high-maintenance woman: beautiful, but a complicated, frustrating, headache to live with.

And I wouldn't have it any other way, even if it would lead to all of you finally seeing my incredible logic and doing as I say.

It wasn't an attack on me.

It enabled me(via dirt-cheap airfares because people were scared to fly) to travel the world.

That was the only effect it had on me. Isn't dissent great?

The nation was divided before 9/11 - along Republican and Democrat lines.

The nation has shuffled a little bit and is now divided along hawk and dove lines. They are similar to, but not the same as, Democrat vs. Republican.

For example, I am a fairly liberal Democrat, but I am totally a hawk.

The big question is "Does the war in Iraq have anything to do with the War on Terror?"

It is an integral part of the War on Terror. Just as the invasion of Morocco was an integral part of WW2, although it might not have seemed that way at the time, seeing as how Morocco had done nothing to us - it was Japan that bombed Pearl Harbor, so why pick on the poor Moroccans (and the French troops that opposed our landing)?

Because this isn't a war that will be won by putting a bandaid on the single wound (9/11), no matter how grievous. This is a war that will be won by stopping the crazy guy with the knife that gave you the wound in the first place. This war will be won by showing him that life is much more pleasant without that knife, or wanting to hurt everyone who is different.

I'd rather live and let live, but if it comes down to a choice between me and the terrorist, I'm on the side with the 21st-century technology.

while moving, i came upon a picture of me taken in New York in about 1977 or 1978, on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. In the background are the relatively new at the time twin towers. My grandparents left Long Island (rockaway) for the west coast in '63. I had cousins on flight 77.

My feelings about what happened are still very, very strong, and i lay blame on the people who flew the plans, who made the plans, who believe they are so superior to us that 3000 of us are naught but numbers, that we are worthy of death merely because we are Americans. With every capture of a cell, every death of a terrorist, my heart smiles a little. I cheer.

That's how i feel about it. People berate me for it. I don't care. My leftie friends didn't care, didn't see why it upset me. It was all i could do to not choke them in their sleep.

My family's history on the east coast runs long and deep (to the 1600s, to the Washington and Adams families, to Boylston St in Boston). i took 9/11 very, very personally. I take the shrugs and the America sucks attitude very personally. I know why my family came to the Colonies.

But I thought the crazy guy with the knife was Bin Laden. The war in Iraq has stopped him...how?

I keep getting an error message when I try to post. testing 1-2-3.

Anyone who thinks THEY were not attacked on that day is clearly not seeing the whole picture. I did not get hit by airplanes or debris but I did get hit by hubris, anger, anxiety, memories of Pearl Harbor (I'm old enough, I remember Pearl Harbor), a stock market that fell even more steeply than the bubble would have let it, and the real knowledge that this was war. We were attacked in a way that meant only only one thing WAR. This was an attack on me, my children, my grandchildren, my way of life, their future and in many more ways the future of all of us. I was attacked, you were attacked, we were all attacked!
It is pure folly to think otherwise.

kmana:

Read this:

http://www.frontpagemag.org/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=13454

It says it better than the long-winded post I tried (and failed) to post.

Michele, the nation's been divided for a long, long time, this just brought it to the fore.

I was in a discussion w/a 60s boomer (D) and he brought up the "uniter, not a divider" bit. I told him that this country will not be united until the 60s boomers are senile, dead or can take no for an answer, and the reason we're FU is because of his generation.

I also recommended he read the book about the 13 generations since the founding of our country.

jon..."All Americans pretty much want the same things"...sadly, I do not think this is true. There seems to be a significant group of people who are essentially nihilists, who wish to see the destruction of our civilization and arguably of any form of organized civilization whatsoever. There is another group of people who seem to feel an absolutely overwhelming sense of entitlement--who believe that their professions, family backgrounds, educational attainments etc entitle them to make the decision for everybody else. The rage of the latter group--like hereditary aristocrats who have lost their power--is palpible in their increasingly-strident attacks on Pres Bush (cf Kennedy, Pelosi)

David, who is it that wants to end civilization? Not anyone with any common sense, though there are many on the fringes who desire such a thing: anarchists, militia gun-nuts, some Christian nutjobs, and those people who can only fit in at renaissance fairs. The Kerry and Bush voters want the same basic stuff. They might have big disagreements over how to fight the war on terror, but there's no huge desire to turn us into the state of Islamicapitulatia or Christian Holywarnia.

Mentioning familial entitlement and then taking sides in a conflict between a Kennedy and a Bush makes for an odd juxtaposition. And all societies have had freeloaders--even ants have shown to have many slackers among them--so don't pretend that 60s Boomers invented leisurely ennui. For that, Marcel Proust is the Godfather of Slack.

Jon...see the post "Cupio dissolvi" by an Italian blogger on the nihilism of many on the left..more eloquent than anything I could write just now:

thejoyofknitting.blogspot.com

..and re the entitlement issue, family entitlement is only one category. Many academics, for example, seem to feel that a PhD makes them a posessor of universal practical wisdom. To a significant extent, modern "liberalism" seems to be about assertion of a sense of class superiority...I don't by any means claim that this is true of all or even most liberals, but that it is true of a significant number of them.

Jesus Christ, get over yourself.
3000 people dead isn't a big deal when compared
to what your government's been doing over the last 60 years to countries all over the world.
I'm not saying America got what it deserved, just that it got what it was asking for.

Oh. My. God.
What is wrong with so many of you?
From whoever thinks it is the Baby Boomer's fault (there are probably way more of us who are pro-war than anti-war) to the crazy ass person who thinks that we got what deserved to those of you who think that people who did not live in NYC were not deeply, personally affected by 9/11, knock some fucking sense into your heads.

I will never forget the morning of 9/11 - driving to work and hearing the report of a plane flying into the first tower - they were talking like it was a small plane at first. Then, parking my car, walking into the office and the total silence with the exception of some sobs from people looking at cnn.com with news that the 2nd tower had been hit.

Then, when the Pentagon was hit - and the plane in Pennsylvania. How dare any of you think that should not, could not affect me, here in flyover country.

My husband had been in the Pentagon just a couple of weeks earlier, in one of the rooms hit, giving a breifing to the very general who was killed that morning. He lost 3 co-workers from his firm, who were doing a follow-up briefing that morning. He lost a whole team of people at the Pentagon who he had shared a project with. And even if we did not know anyone killed by the terrorists of 9/11, we would still be horrified, angry and ready to do whatever it takes to protect ourselves, our neighbors, our fellow citizens.

I want to scream and yell and beat your silly heads in when you say that 3,000 dead is no big deal.

Fuck you, DrReverend. Fuck you people who think that the only impact 9/11 had on you is cheaper airline flights.

We are at war. We need to be at war. Those of you who think Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terrorism - get over yourselves.

Oh, my Michele, forgive me - this is your blog. I just get very upset over this. Tears still come to my eyes when I remember 9/11.
And I'm glad that I cry - proves that I have a heart, unlike so many of you heartless, gutless people.