Sunday, September 12, 2010
Now that we're past the day in question, my reminiscence--
September 11, 2009, I find myself in the ladies' room on the floor of my office, not quite 9:30 I think, and I have a case of the "stiffs", a condition I sometimes have, where my knuckles need cracking and my knees lock and my back hurts, and for whatever reason, Ibuprofen works a little but I pee like a racehorse, so I am exiting the bathroom stall and about to perform a plie to "un-stiffen" my legs a little so I can sit more comfortably in my office chair and take my 100 calls like I usually do.
My co-worker shows me an e-mail alert she got on her cell-phone: two jets hit the World Trade Towers. This seems horribly unfortunate to me, having just recently exited the loo and being interested mostly in drying my hands and discretely stretching in such a way that my gimpy self can comfortably sit. I ponder a moment and opine someone must have well and truly fucked up.
My imagination being that we're talking not about large commercial jet planes, but instead the kind of small private passenger-jet that had, in recent memory, bounced off the Empire State building. An error, an accident, not anything existentially threatening, or yet, anything weird. I was ready to go back to my headset and the hundred calls that were supposed to still be waiting for me--
But they didn't come. My job was to man a busy information line, and help people with certain bureaucratic issues--and over an hour, my volume dropped as word of what was happening spread, like the flight of some bird of ill omen, over the folks who might have given us a ring to settle up their accounts, or whatever. Something stunned people so badly they weren't interested in taking care of our kind of business, and sporadically, buts and pieces of gossip-like word-of-mouth news started to circulate--
They were commercial jets. The WTC were struck, and one building was in bad shape and the other? And the Pentagon was hit. And we all kind of hung in speculation that something else might still be violated. There were rumors of something being struck near Philadelphia.
I stayed in work that day, only peeking in for a minute during lunch to catch a view of the news coverage on a TV that was set-up in a conference room for people who wanted to know something, anything. I work in Trenton, which is near enough to Manhattan that it was just possible that someone knew someone, or knew someone who knew someone, and so many people had their cell phones out to talk to people and find out where and how they were.
What I remember is the silence. Our phones went dead. People just had something else to do, like hug their kids, or visit their folks, or go to a Mass or do what I did, which was meditate that things would get better, or maybe they were riveted to the cable news, and maybe they were volunteering, or maybe giving blood. I was living with my parents, being just off a divorce, and having no expenses, I gave what I could. But what I remember was the silence. I went to work, and people just didn't call. It was like everyone was stunned, and otherwise occupied. Surreal.
For me, the 9/11 memorial is best personified by the silence that suggests the stunned hurt and fear so many people had, but doesn't impose any meaning on it. I know there was a lot of commemorative chatter today on the cable news, but I didn't see it. I want to recall the silence, and the unity for a little while, instead.