Monday, September 11, 2006

American Girl

Every year on September 11th, and usually several times in between, I read an article from my favorite online author, Sarah Bunting, who goes by "Sars". She writes columns on her website, Tomato Nation, and if you're reading this blog, I've probably sent you at least one of her articles. I even print them out for the technophobic New Jersey Grandparent Contingent. It's funny how you come to things. Someone who was far away from me five years ago sent me her article about September 11th because, as they said, they didn't know what else to do except show me that other people were going through all this, too. About a year later, the SecGen turned me on to Television Without Pity, which Sars also runs. Eventually, on a day when I'd run out of TWoP recaps to read, I found my way to Tomato Nation, from whence the article my friend had sent me over a year before came.

The article I read, every year, without fail, is Thou Art With Us, Sars' account of her day in New York when the towers came down. Every year she writes something, and it's always exactly what I feel about the anniversary, but Thou Art haunts me, and makes me cry. It's so different from what I experienced, and so much the same. It's the side events - Sars mentions seeing the hairdresser and waving, like any other day, cheering for rescuers when they crossed her path as she drove home. I remember the people who sat outside along Ward Circle and cheered on the emergency vehicles as they went past. I remember getting my hair cut because when they called to see if I wanted to move my hair appointment. I didn't know what else to say but yes, so I got my hair cut, and it came out crooked because both the stylist and I had been watching CNN in the mirror, half-turning to read the ticker. I paid $43.28. I remember what the sky looked like, both looking up and looking towards the Pentagon from the roof of the dorms. I remember what the night sky looked like, too, when I couldn't sleep, so I wandered the streets around campus. The weather was perfect, absolutely perfect.

It was perfect the next day, too, when there was a bomb threat and I had to call my mom and tell her. I remember the Metro station supervisor letting me through the gate even though I didn't have any money and the credit card Metrocard machine wasn't working. I went to work, of all things. I wound up giving water and bandages and idle talk to the rescuers down at the Pentagon, the people who had been there for more than a day. I remember what we talked about - the DC sports teams, a couple UMD Terps comments, hometowns, kids, jobs. One guy told me about how he and his wife were leaving the next day for Nova Scotia. They eloped and never got around to the honeymoon, so that was the plan. I have a hard time thinking that plan got followed through on, since I had to fight to keep him there long enough to get a full bottle of water into him and a bandage on his gashed arm before he went right back into the smoke and darkness.

Every year, I read that article and I find more things in it. I find the same thing with my memory of 2001. There's more I can remember, more I can appreciate, more to cry over. Spinnaker, G-Man, Beastie, Janice, Dropkick and the Holy Man came down to DC 11 days later in the Holy Man's gigantic Excursion. I remember it like it was yesterday. I don't like the way the media and the regular people are treating this anniversary, with the fame- and honor-whoring...believe it or not, not everyone's story needs airtime. I nearly slugged someone in Philadelphia over their attempt to shove themselves into the light of glory for no goddamn reason. I just...I wish we could learn. I wish I could feel like we were safer. I wish we WERE safer. I wish I could be proud of Bush again, be optimistic about Bush again. And sometimes, because I wish all of those things, I wish it was still September 11th, 2001, when we were all helping as best we could, and everyone was ready to make things better.

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