Rummaging through backups for my thoughts

I wrote this a few days after September 11th, 2001. It was buried in a backup of a backup:

There are so many people in this world. I never thought I’d witness extreme sadness and horror mirrored in those “so many people.” When I moved to New York City in June I felt overwhelmed by the hugeness of the city and the number of talented people just like me in close proximity. In the afternoon of that Tuesday when I ventured for the first time outside, I saw three young firefighters in their yellow rubber pants, their jackets off. One of them—burly, strapping, manly—had tears dripping quietly down his face. I turned away, looked the other way. How had my city changed from fend-for-yourself faces to thousands of faces showing their sorrow, quiet anger, betrayal and fear? Manhattan became eerily quiet.

I returned to that island of people, buildings, artists, mixed cultures, dirty streets on Friday—three days after that day. My three days of sanctuary and sorrow in Brooklyn are an experience I wish to forget. They were filled with nightmares, periods of shock, panic attacks when the fighter jets would fly overhead, the sounds of sirens, my tears mirrored in every person on the street, the horror of the television showing my war-torn neighborhood, my white footbridge with the reporter in front of it. Even the reporter was in shock. She was filled with a tired sort of emotion, fear of another attack, and pain from the loss and ugliness behind her. Her interviews of people on the street were disgusting because they only conveyed the surface of the pain and left out so much.

No words can describe the feelings of evil, of ugliness, of wrongness when viewing that pile of steel with ones’ own eyes. It hangs in your stomach to resurface later. I walk by the MISSING posters on Canal Street. Pictures of loyal husbands, beautiful daughters, and kooky best friends hang on the graffiti-plastered warehouse walls. I feel like my new friend Olivia. She discusses the posters sadly, “I want to tell them [the families of the victims] that they aren’t missing. They’re dead.” To get to my apartment in Manhattan I walk many blocks from the few subways that are left running downtown. The streets are quiet—barricades are up to let only authorized vehicles into TriBeCa and lower Manhattan. Some of the people that live in my neighborhood have moved back. I walk through the plastic smelling smoke. I don’t turn to look at the pile. I show the army man my identification, my checkbook showing I live in the building at the end of the block. He smiles when I walk back around the corner of the building with my pillow and various bags. “At least you’ve got your favorite pillow now,” he says. “Yeah,” I comment quietly. I turn away from him and walk in an uptown direction to avoid the view south of my apartment.

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