The city sits in a gray cold wet embrace. Daylight seems apprehensive beneath the slate of the sky. The streets are quiet. I exit Penn Station, upon this dour anniversary, stepping over the homeless that lay around one of the main exits. I shake my head with the realization that it’s been six years, and I haven’t been comfortable coming to the city ever since.
I remember the day in 2001, when one of my friends at work saw me in the street that morning, with the following statement:
“Some moron crashed into one of the World Trade buildings.”
“Are you kidding?” I said, peering down the avenue, only seeing a small twist of smoke in the sky.
It had only happened a few minutes before. We had thought it was a small plane. That was the initial rumor because even eyewitnesses weren’t sure, the large size of the building skewed perceptions of size.
I went up into the building, and went to work. And we all stood around talking, starting to hear that it was a bigger plane…when another co-worker came running in ashen,
“Another plane hit the other tower.”
And our world shook.
To watch it all from our windows, the whole day to me, felt unreal…like a dream. We watched the blazing trail of pitch black flood the skies. My brother worked for my company on another floor, and we both called back and forth to share information as it hit the radio, the web, and the rumor mill of those shocked and bewildered.
I watched the towers fall…I stood with my mouth agape affixed in a disassociated stare, where my brain simply disconnected, feeling like I was watching some movie. That this was not happening. That this wasn’t something that would touch me.
It wasn’t until a few years later when it would touch me. When it would lie waiting as some post-traumatic stress disorder, causing me anxiety on my every commute in and away from the city.
But, back then unreality was succinct, where I stood there with nothing to say as we watched people coming up the streets like pale ghosts, caked in dust from the wreckage of our safe notions. I ordered Chinese food numbly since none of us could leave with the trains, tunnels and bridges closed. I somehow walked outside in obscene bliss, calm like a Hindu cow. I simply could not grasp the impact.
People all crowded outside Penn Station. My brother and I simply waited for the Long Island Railroad to be opened, looking down from our windows. We knew Penn like the back of our hand, and as soon as we saw people were being let in, and that some trains were running, he and I dashed down, going through one of the back ways…and grabbed any train we could. We wanted escape from this topsy-turvy place…a world turned upside down. We caught one of the first trains out…not heading to my apartment in Queens. We wanted no part of the city. We came HOME. To the place we grew up, to the place where our parents were, on Long Island.
I now live on Long Island again. And these days, as I still commute to the city, there is not one day that I don’t think about the danger that has pervaded my idyllic life. Sometimes I feel we are just sitting back. That we are just waiting…waiting for something to happen. Like this impending doom. An axe yet to swing. And it was thinking these things one summer day last year when I realized that that experience back then caused some post-traumatic response. And I’ve been fighting with it ever since.
So I come to work this morning, reading about how the WTC area is still this open gaping sore on our national consciousness. Where bureaucracy and politics have created a national shame of a rebuild and rekindling of hope lying undone. And I walk off my train, wondering if this is the day some nut once again will careen against my illusions. Pervading my pursuit of the American dream with the hammer of violence, dread, and death…guised in self-righteousness. And I look up at the dark sky, stepping over this homeless man, trying to avoid smelling the glaring stink of an unsecure world, and step into the city knowing this day…I just won’t be able to blog about hockey.