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five years later

September 11, 2006

Mr. Angst is finally home. I don’t like it when he travels without me, and I don’t much care for being home alone–particularly with lots of work to do and no one to distract me from it but myself. I’m glad he’s home safe and sound.

I was remembering earlier today where I was five years ago–as I think many Americans are today. I was at work, and checking the news. Yahoo had a news spot about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center and I remember thinking, Huh. I wonder if it was a biplane? How does that even happen, crashing into a building that big?

But within twenty minutes, it was clear that something More had happened. CNN suddenly stopped being available online for a little while; when it came back they’d put up a stripped-down page with nothing but text headlines. A student came into my office and said he heard a second plane had hit the Trade Center, and some other building in Midtown Manhattan had fallen. (One of the many rumors flying that day.) Then we heard a plane crashed somewhere in Washington and another was on the way to the Capitol. No one in our building really knew what was going on. Someone dragged a TV into the main office and we fiddled with the antenna to get a signal. Finally, I realized I should just walk over to the Student Union and see what was going on on the TVs over there.

The union was packed; students were practically standing on top of each other, and every TV was tuned to CNN. (I am not sure if that was unusual; now that I think about it, they might always be tuned to CNN. Maybe it was that, on that day, the volume was turned all the way up on every TV.) The towers had just fallen a few minutes earlier, and the TVs–all of them, across the great big room–were replaying the footage, over and over and over. It was too much for me, so I left.

Despite the anxiety everyone felt, we did not shut down. Students went to classes, we stayed in our offices and worked–or searched online for any news that was new, that said something that might explain it all, that might retract something we’d seen on the TV. I remember going to the American Airlines website, hoping to see good news about what we would later learn was Flight 93 (at that time, we only knew there was a fourth plane unaccounted for), only to see another stripped-down page with a phone number for concerned relatives to call. Then the emails started–who was living in New York? Did they make it out OK? One friend was working in one of the Trade Center buildings, but made it out with no problems. Another was on a bus when the second plane crashed into the Trade Center. The entire busload of people, en masse, told the bus driver to turn around and take them back to Brooklyn. The brother of an acquaintance, who was an EMT, put a piece of tape on his chest reading “EMT” and went down to try and help with the triage. Later he would recount how disoriented he felt when there was no triage, no one to help but a few individuals with scrapes or panic attacks.

By the time I got home, I was completely drained. Mr. Angst had been sent home from a training, so I went to his house and we lay on the couch and held each other and worried and despaired. A childhood friend was having a birthday party that night, and I wondered what she and her guests were doing. I wondered how my own birthday, the next day, would feel. Would I feel wrong celebrating my birthday? Like I didn’t deserve to celebrate? Everything was so confused.

I don’t know that five years has lessened the confusion. I still feel a little funny about my birthday, though I don’t really know why. I am still so grateful that no one I know was hurt. And I still ache for all those who lost someone. And I think I ache a little for my innocence.

Categories: just me
  1. September 11, 2006 at 10:19 pm

    You described how I feel well.

    Here is a hopeful, lovely story about another Sept. 12 baby.

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