I hate today.

Friday, September 11, 2009

More than a week since the last post.

It's a shame I decided to come back today. I could have come back yesterday, and then I wouldn't have had to post today. Or I could have just stuck to my lazy guns one more day, and then I'd come back on the twelfth, or even the thirteenth, with a post-MN SCBWI update. (I'm sure I'll post one of those on Sunday or even Saturday night.) But no. Instead, here I am, smack on September 11.

I sort of can't believe it's only been eight years. It feels like that was a different man, who woke up in Astoria, Queens, like it was any other day. He got on the N train at 30th Avenue and rode it right to 57th and 7th (I think . . .), to get to work at Good Housekeeping magazine. He was in his black slacks and white button-down, as always. It was completely normal. Only one thing seemed strange, just before nine that morning. The N train stopped at Queensboro Plaza, still above ground, like it always did. And the doors stood open for a little while, to get back on schedule and wait for the 7 train transfer, I suppose. But as we sat there, a man tapped his friend and said something quietly in Chinese. The two men then leaned over the seated passengers to look out the windows. A few others, curious, turned to see as well. I leaned with the rest and saw smoke and flames coming out of one of the Twin Towers. (Lord knows I didn't know which was One and which was Two.)

We shrugged it off as a curiosity: a fire in one of the Twin Towers. The train went on, under the river. But I emerged from the station into a quiet confusion. It just felt wrong. Good Housekeeping's offices were quiet, as they usually were that early. The Research Department, of which I was a member, was always first to arrive. We'd usually started our second cups of coffee before Editorial showed, generally between 9:30 and ten. That day, few editors showed up at all, I suppose. My boss and I watched one of the twenty-four-hour news channels and saw the second plane hit. I don't recall if we knew by then that this was an attack, and not some insane accident. But when the second plane hit, it certainly became obvious.

I started smoking again, right then. I told my boss I had been quit for a week but I couldn't take this and she said go downstairs, so I did. And the streets were filled with people--with New Yorkers. Cars were stopped . . . just anywhere, like that REM video. It sounds fantastic and sentimental, but it's true. People left their car doors open and stood on their bumpers or roofs to try to catch a glimpse. I think we all expected a fireball to come screaming up 8th Avenue, or at least a huge white smoke monster.

I'd told my boss I'd work for the day, but by the time I'd gotten back upstairs, that was an insane notion. No one would work that day, I imagine. We wished each other good luck and a few of us, my self included, tried to get friends and family on the phone; my cousin worked in one of the Towers, and was only late to work that day because he was casting his vote in the NYC mayoral election.

Getting home was tricky. Most subways were not running, and rumors about more attacks, biological weapons, god knows what else, flowed through crowds. There must have thousands of us roaming midtown, hoping an E might suddenly burst into action to get us across the river. I know a lot of people just walked.

An E did run, eventually, but then shut down at the first Queens station, to which I'd never been. I managed to find a taxi and get in. He was nice. He was scared, too. We kept watching the sky. But his car wasn't moving, not much. We didn't get far together. Once I recognized something, I said I'd get out and walk, and we said good luck to each other and he wouldn't let me pay him.

I don't remember when the towers collapsed entirely. I don't remember much else about that day. But I remember that morning, and I miss the Towers--really, I miss them--every time I take a bridge into the city and see that lopsided skyline, with downtown looking like it's sinking into the harbor.

I'm sorry this is so sentimental and ridiculous. The truth is, only the anniversary of my father's death affects me more than September 11. I hate today.

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Corey Schwartz said...

Me too! I was in New York city also. Every year, on the anniversary, I went to our local fire precinct (which lost eight men) and left flowers and candles and cried. Now that I am in New Jersey, my mom goes for me But it is not the same. . I feel bad not being there on this day.

September 11, 2009 at 7:57 PM