Thursday, April 13, 2006

I Thought I Was Ready

So, a movie about September 11th is coming out.

Let me tell you about my back-page news story of September 11th. It's nothing compared to so much of America, but maybe telling the story - again, for the first time - will help me figure out why this movie is both grossing me out and making me terrified.

I was adding a class to my schedule, a 9:30 class I believe, some time in the morning, and I was starting it on September 11th. I woke up early, and Top Gun was still sleeping. I got online to check email and, but before I got opened a browser, an IM popped up. It was a friend of mine from home, asking me if I could believe it. I turned on the TV, with the tension of not wanting to wake up Top Gun, waiting for the screen to come up and the first flash of sound so I could hit mute. It looked like a movie, although anyone who saw it knows that. "A plane hit the World Trade Center"...yeah. I thought they meant that a small plane had crashed and more or less bounced off...for some reason, my brain told me that such things happened all the time, little Cessnas merrily pinging off the upper floors of the Twin Towers. I don't know. About a minute later, I watched the second plane crash into the second tower. I never saw the one that crashed into the Pentagon, or the one that went down in Pennsylvania - Flight 93. When the plane crashed into the second tower, I made a noise and woke up Top Gun. We watched together until the phone rang, maybe two and a half hours later. By then, classes had been cancelled and everyone's doors were open, but it wasn't like when we watched baseball or TV shows with the doors open. It was silent, and tense silent, not calm. No one knew what to do.

The phone call was the hair salon in the Tunnel. I had a hair appointment later in the day, and they were asking if I wanted to move up the appointment, since everyone else had been cancelling. I said sure, why not, mostly because I just had to get out of the room. When I hung up, the Rockette's voice called across the hall to see if everything was okay. When I answered her, I could feel the whole wing listening. I went to the appointment in boxers and a white tee shirt. I'd had the boxers since I went to Girl Scout camp years, with cows on them, more shorts than underwear. I wore yellow flip flops that were dirty from the mulching on campus - they blew it with huge guns, and the dust that resulted drifted into every crack and crevice. I still wore my hair short then.

Top Gun had left when I came back, and she didn't return until later. I talked to Mom and Dad online, since phones were down. When she came back, I had just seen the first footage of people leaping from the buildings. She had brought friends with her, and I was sobbing. She bugged out pretty fast, and I don't blame her. I went up to the roof with everyone else, and watched the smoke rising from the Pentagon. It all seemed like some kind of crazy, completely out of hand movie had relocated right down the street. I don't know when I went to bed.

The next day there was a bomb threat. Nothing ever works the way emergency plans say they should, and this wasn't an exception - the RD came running down the hall beating on doors and yelling that there was a bomb. When the panic settled down, Top Gun and I were outside with Captain Southern America in the Nebraska Avenue lot, trading stories and statistics with everyone else. I called Mom from the church and told her we decided to check out the morning service, so as not to freak her out if the threat and evacuation hadn't made national news. We found some flip flips for Top Gun, who had run out the door sans footwear, and went back outside, only to learn that we would be outside probably until 5, without ID, money, cell phones, keys, anything. I went back inside and called Mom back to explain what was happening and ask for her friend's number who lived nearby. She drove from work to pick us up and take us to her house with the old school Nintendo and the happy dog, and introduced us to Booeymonger. About midway through the day, though, we heard that things had cleared up and we were allowed back in, so we got on the Metro - the station manager took one look at us, said "AU?" and let us through the gates - and went home.

I didn't know what else to do, so I went in to work. It was about 1, and by then, they were allowing volunteers with Congressional ID and first aid and CPR certs to go to the Pentagon to relieve some of the first responders who were still there. I went and handed out water and helped bandage people's cuts and watched bodies and pieces of bodies pulled from the smoking hole in the building. The hole could have eaten my dorm. Over the course of the day, most of the blood drained out of my body, along with the sweat, and by the end I was absolutely ashen. On the taxi ride home, the driver told me stories in a frantic, if-I-stop-something-bad-will-happen tone, trying to keep me awake and calm, and kept asking if I was okay. Halfway home, I had to have him pull over so I could throw up on the side of the road, and he rubbed my back while I spackled the guardrail and cried.

I am sitting here with tears on my cheeks, finishing this at work after three attempts over the span of a week, in 2006, five whole years after the fact. This entry has turned into an epic for me. I thought I would just blaze through the account of it and get to all the various things that bothered me about this stupid film...the advertising, the tacky fundraising, the greasy sounding director's pep-talking. But instead I'm a wreck, which is even worse, because what right does this goddamn movie have to make me relive this and to feel so awful and helpless and small? My part in September 11th is so infintesimally tiny compared to so many other people, and I am still wrecked just thinking about it in this kind of detail. I know that a lot of the families are okay with Flight 93, but it's not really them I am worried for. I am certainly glad that they have given it their blessing, but it's the rest of us I am worried for. They have the benefit of being clearly entitled to grief. It's okay for their world to stop, and for them to go into therapy, and for them to meet with support groups, and to work towards stability while the world gives them a wide berth. There's quite possibly no group of people who I feel worse for than the survivors of September 11th and the victims' families - it was horrible unexpectedness on the grandest scale - but I feel sorry for all of us, too, who DON'T get considered survivors. No one escaped that day, and only some have grieved properly. I think this movie is going to be so much more traumatizing than anyone expects.

Jesus. God help us all. This is too much.

No comments:

Post a Comment