The thing I remember most from 9/11 was the silence, the utter complete silence of the day after. The silence of no air travel. Realizing I hadn’t noticed how prevalent the sound of planes were until they were gone. And since then, if I hear a plane that’s just a bit too loud, or see one that feels oddly low, I watch it. I follow it through the sky, I wait for it to clear and move on into open airspace.
I was on the west coast, and in high school, so we didn’t get much information in real time. And NY felt so very, very far away. I’ve still never been there. The towers falling, the images of people jumping – I’ve seen these things a hundred times since then, but on that day those images were mostly horrific, shocking, and fascinating all at once. I wasn’t living it, I was witnessing it from a distance. Like a car crash while you’re driving past. I never felt threatened, these things were happening to people who weren’t me, and who weren’t anyone I knew.
But after watching and sometimes avoiding and sometimes seeking out the anniversary coverage it feels like there are two experiences happening all at once. The grief and traumatic response of those who lived through it first hand, and everyone else who experience it as a frightening reality of what could happen to us, as Americans, if we’re not paying attention. I feel more sadness today than I felt 10 years ago. I feel more fear today than I felt 10 years ago. I’m, of course, older and have a greater understanding of the world, of how it works, of how fucked up it can be, of how easy it is to die. How simple of an act it seems. How, in an instant, you can be here and then not be here. That scares me. It scares me that people just went to work… just showed up like they (and we) all do every day … and absolute fiery hell descended upon them. Knowing that that happens, here and elsewhere scares me.
I watched the interviews with the widows of men who were on flights or in the buildings struggling to breath. The idea that I would get a phone call from Kamel in his last moments is torture. That is my torture. The idea that I could be in the position of those people trapped or on hijacked planes, calling home as the world disintegrates around them chills me and makes me never want to leave my house. Ever.
On Sunday I checked cnn.com a handful of times at different intervals just making sure that nothing else had gone on. That no one had succeeded at murdering more innocent people, that the country could just get through this day without more tragedy.
Kamel and I talk about what would happen if anyone attempted another hijacking today. How we’re sure that no one on that hypothetical plane would stand for it, that the hijackers would be taken down by an angry mob, that it wouldn’t last 30 min. Kamel said today that he would be the first one up. Like, “Oh helllll no.” I said I would be the second.
I’m sure we’ll witness more bad things happen in our life time. I’m sure when we have kids my fears of things no one can control will reach new neurotic levels. I’m sure that good people outnumber the bad people in the world. But I’m not sure what that means or how that changes things.