My Grandfather and Uncle were both NYC Firefighters. My Nephew's Father is also a cop, and I have a cousin (born of the aforementioned Uncle) who is a paralegal who ordinarily works at the WTC.
You can see where this is going...sometimes there is little point in literary coyness.
My writing advisor in college once taught us that writers should "show" not "say". Of course, then she would show us authors breaking the rules -- she was great that way. But then you find yourself ... well, the words that can be used to describe my feelings are already cliched in reference to this... event. Since I feel the need to post something, I'm going to try anyway.
I feel simultaneously engulfed and abandoned by this bizarrely terrifying concept. Two buildings I remember growing, a floor at a time, as a child, are simply...gone. When I was 8, I was fascinated by the slow progress of its construction, although I hear that they were putting up floors as fast as one a day at times, and this speed over design may have contributed to the towers defeat. What can I say...even as a child I was impatient and eager to see the buildings touch the sky, the first major shift in the Manhattan skyline since the Empire State and Chrysler buildings had their height contest so many decades before.
When they were finished, I was a bit let down...they simply didn't seem very impressive to me compared to the towering might of the Empire State Building, even with the sharp contrast of so many lesser towers surrounding it. They were so uniform and characterless that WPIX at one point used them as part of a station break to blend into their channel number...11. To be fair, the Empire State Building will always have Kong (no, the re-make simply didn't work for me...sorry, Dino), which made it even more of a romanticized location for a young boy.
But for about 30 years they were there, a part of NY. I stood at their base once, and allowed my self the guilty, tourist-like pleasure of looking straight up the side, shortly after George Willig scaled them back in the seventies...and subsequently was fined a total of 1 cent a floor for his transgression. New York admires Chutzpah, and a good show...and will pretend to scold you whilst winking. "Ya shouldn't a done dat...nudge, nudge..."
But then, there are the bad shows.
Michele, my wife, woke me on September 11th, 2001, to tell me that the World Trade Center was gone.
The sheer improbability of that statement is enough to make one gibber. If that wasn't enough, then the slow motion cycling of the events of the morning on CNN would have done it, the odd sensation of watching people die in spectacular Irwin-Allen-on-Acid fashion, over and over.
I don't live in NY any more...I couldn't stand the stress, and never felt comfortable with all those people. Yet, while I'll caution people against living there, I defend the city and state constently..."It's not that New Yorkers are cold," I'll say, "But that they don't want to be made fools of. They're all desperate for the chance to serve a pure cause...that's why you hear stories amazingly selfless acts of generosity and bravery from The City that Never Sleeps. They want a chance to give...and get so few chances."
My Grandfather left us many years ago...my uncle has retired. He only has to mourn the death of so many people he worked with, as the towers began to collapse. My nephew's dad is also okay.
I can hear the metaphors already, comparing those shining and gleaming artifices with the system they represented...but that detracts from the image of debris and bodies leaping from a building in one last primal shot at survival...however impossible.
Already, my anger is starting to cut through the numbness and shock. Anger at the perpetrators: What was the point of this act? Does this make your on suffering that much less, to have us suffer more? Anger at our government: You ignore the pain of the world, and have the arrogance of an emperor, and you think nothing will come of it? Is this your Pearl harbor, Bush, your cynical attempt to swing public opinion behind an unpopular presidency, one lacking legitimacy? Could anyone actually have LET this happen, with-holding information until it was too late? Anger at ourselves: How did we let things get so out of control?
The last video I could stomach was the first footage of the actual site, taken by a fool-hardy magazine publisher, who simply walked by shell-shocked police and fireman, too weary to put up more than a token resistance. It was really gone...just a wall remaining, already threatening to fall, the fluted arch effect still discernible. The rest was rubble, sometimes well below street level.
Robin turned off the TV and went to hang out with Michele. I left the house, eager to do something to distract me from the events of the day. I went and got my mail servers for Erik, as I had managed to nail my connection back up, at least until the 21st (strange, how my bitching about that seems even whinier to me now then it did before). The server on the seat next to me, I felt moved to eat something...I realized I hadn't since waking to the image of chaos. I stopped at PW Markets in Cupertino, a notable choice: It's the only chain in California that has a full line of Boar's Head cold cuts. Michele had discovered it a few weeks earlier.
I went in and ordered some bologna (thin sliced), and a couple of Kaiser rolls...poppy seed, of course. Those are also pretty hard to find out here. I went out to the car, and listened to the radio. Live 105, normally the purview of alternative rock, was preempted by news coverage from KABC. I split the kaiser rolls with my hands (it's not hard if you do it carefully), and rolled the bologna the way my grandfather had taught me when I was 6.
The coverage was a series of clicks and buzzes at that point. I held the rolled piece of meat, and rather than put it on the sandwich, I ate it straight up. I flashed to being six again, when there was no World Trade Center, and the Empire State Building was the tallest building in NYC. That this was true statement again, and what the purchase of that truth had cost us, made me feel as young as when it was last true, and just as helpless to do much about it.
Sitting in my car in Cupertino, 32 years later and several thousand miles away, I began to cry.