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Six Years
cap, captain miss america
I don't think I've ever posted a remembrance, and because six years isn't a day one remembers-- I only see one other post in my LJ-- thanks, sileri-- I feel like it's the right time.

ETA: It is also, and I was thinking about this a few days ago, the first Tuesday, 9/11, since the Tuesday, 9/11.

Six years ago today, I woke up.

It was like any other day. I walked to Grand Central, like any other day-- but early. I was a good hour early because I had a meeting at ten and I wanted to be prepared for it.

I walked into Grand Central, and I saw a man from my old job at Playgirl, asked how he was. It was an awkward exchange considering that he was one of the people who got offended whenever I mentioned that gay people existed, but friendly.

I had been feeling a little under the weather, so I went into Duane Reade to buy cleaning supplies to wipe down my desk at work so I could make sure I didn't get sick.

And that was when the world changed.

The radio station was interrupted to say that there had been an explosion in one of the Twin Towers. They weren't sure what it was, and at this point, they were speculating that it was a small craft plane.

I shrugged and kept on shopping.

By the time I got to the register with my purchases, they were getting conflicting reports that both towers had had explosions, that there had been a bomb, that a large airplane or a helicopter had flown into one tower and a piece of it had landed in the other and caused a chain explosion.

Still, they were saying there was a lot of smoke but it was isolated damage and blablahblah. Still no hint of the devastation to come.

I rang up my purchases and left. There was a girl crying outside the drugstore, trying to get in touch with her boyfriend who worked in the towers. She had two friends with her, one who was consoling her and reminding her that when the towers were bombed, everything had turned out all right. The other one was bitching her out for making a scene in public. That was the level of understanding that we had of the magnitude of the disaster-- it was okay, still, at nine-something in the morning, to be bitching someone out for being upset.

I got on the subway. I got off the subway.

On the way to work every morning, I used to pass the big movie screen in Times Square. This morning when I passed it, they were showing the towers. From the angle they were shooting, it didn't look so bad.

At nine-thirty-something, when I got to the office, the woman I was supposed to meet with called to say that traffic was insane because of the fire at the World Trade Center, and she was going to be running late, but she'd get there when she got there.

Nine-thirty was when other people usually started to come to work. In these days, we had two developers, one other designer, and my bosses. My bosses were in California. No one else had gotten in yet.

At ten-something, the woman I was supposed to meet with called to say that she was still stuck in the same place, and she was just going to turn around and go home, but she'd come in later.

I emailed my bosses and told them that the meeting couldn't take place, because there had been a bombing or something at the World Trade Center, and traffic was atrocious.

Minutes later, the first tower came down. I found out about it by refreshing Google News nonstop as I tried desperately to call my father, just to get in touch with someone.

Minutes after that, the internet slowed to a halt. The phone circuits were overtaxed. I was sitting alone in my office with no way of reaching anyone or finding out what was going on.

And then my father's phone call reached me.

"You're still at work?" he asked.
"Yes," I answered. "But no one else is here. I don't think they can get in from Brooklyn."
"Probably not," he agreed. "So you know what's going on."
"Yes," I answered.

We talked a little more, and somewhere in the conversation, I said something about how lonely the still standing tower was.

And there was silence.
After a moment, my father said to me, "The other tower came down, too."
"They both fell."
"Oh God." I remember saying "Oh God" repeatedly. It was all I could say.

"This is going to be a very sad day," my father said. "A lot of people have died. A lot of people are going to die."

Those words are going to stay with me for the rest of my life, more than anything any celebrity or politician or survivor ever will. My father, on the phone, saying "This is going to be a very sad day."

When my father hung up, I just sat in the office, the office where I was still alone, and cried and cried.

Finally, the internet started working, and my bosses, who were on California time and thus had just woken up, had sent me an email saying that my email was the first news they'd gotten, and to go home.

So (after arguing with various family members about whether it was safe for me to go down to help and finally, grudgingly, being convinced not to as I have no EMT training) I did.

There are a lot of other memories of that day and the days that followed, of going to give blood, of being evacuated from my home, of the people wearing surgical masks, of the MISSING posters that plastered the city, of finding out which of my friends had died, which had lost relatives, of the anthrax scares and the bomb scares and the days when we were evacuated from three different places in one day, of the smell of burnt flesh that hung in the air, of the ash and smoke and the red cloud over everything. Of the weeks where it felt like that would be our lives forever. But those things-- those things happened to all of us. Every New Yorker. This one piece is what happened to me that day, when I was alone in an office in Hell's Kitchen. It's the one piece that only I can remember, so only I can pass it on.

I think, in the six years that followed, that New York has become a better place. But the world as a whole has become much worse.

Since I posted, a number of people on my flist have posted their own posts, so I'm going to link them here. Some of them are locked, but this is so that I will be able to look back and see.

sileri: here
pachakuti: #1 #2
mildlyironic: here
spiralstairs: here
twowishesleft: here
_samalander: here
opaleyes: here
nightrose83: here
jerrica28: here
tigera4j: here
cinediva: here
smammers: here
quizzicalsphinx: here

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I had a similar It's-Not-Such-A-Big-Deal when I found out about it, since it was five something in the morning in my timezone and all I cared about was getting to practice on-time, but when the whole of my second period class was spent watching CNN, I knew something was really, really wrong. The teacher for that class said some similar words to your father's and they're all I can think of every anniversary: "History is not found in books, it's found in the thoughts and memories of the people sitting in this room. You have a privileged view of what 100 years from now people may call the saddest day of the 21st century". I wrote it in my class notes, and then in my yearbook, and now it lives as a private post in LJ.

What your teacher said is exactly the reason why I've meant to write about what happened to me that day, but never got around to it till now. Because being an ordinary New Yorker watching as my city went from a beautiful autumn morning to a warzone in the course of a little over an hour is something that is more important than any political hogwash that people try to wrap this day up in. It's going to be more important to our kids. I want future generations to know that in the moments when it happened, it wasn't political. It was sad and terrible.

I saw the movie of World Trade Center last year when it came out, and there were so many moments in it that really evoked what it was like to be in New York City that day. They even used the radio reports from before the first plane hit. Hearing the same radio announcers I had heard that morning, talking about the same things they had been talking about before it happened, was one of those moments when watching a movie really gave me chills.

I was asleep and my roommate woke me up when the plane hit the first tower. We were glued to the TV -- neither of us at that time knew anybody in New York, but it was still horrifying. We gathered with all of our friends and watched every news channel we could all day.

That night, I'll never forget -- there was a man standing in the park playing the saddest rendition of "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.

It's those little tiny details that are the ones that stick with you forever after.

I remember a woman stopping me on the escalator a couple days later and just saying hello, how are you? Just a stranger. Because she knew people needed it. Not just me, not me as an individual, because she didn't know me. She knew we all did.

I applaud your father's good sense. Mine suddenly became filled with enough patriotism to rival Captain America. It wasn't any sort of directed nationalism either, it was the America, Fuck Yeah! style. Add in a desire for revenge and that strikes me as a dangerous thing.

I think, in the six years that followed, that New York has become a better place. But the world as a whole has become much worse
I don't know how much we've changed things on a grand scale, but I definitely think we've become more aware of the goodness/badness of the world. The attacks finally drew attention to vulnerabilities that we were too complacent to address. I think the challenge is doing so without squashing our liberties. Certainly steps have been taken, but we've got a long way to go still.

I would really like to discuss your last point, but about halfway through writing the comment, I realized that I don't want to do it on this post, because it's going to become too political in nature and I don't want to color this post with my own personal political views because it skews the original intent of what I was writing.

I think for most New Yorkers-- at least most that I know, the events didn't take on a political cast for weeks afterward. They only became political when the politicians came in. It was simply tragic. I don't think it's possible to feel all "America, fuck yeah," when there's a giant hole full of smoke and dead people a few blocks away.

I think it's become "New York, fuck yeah!", but we've always been like that so it's nice to get back on track. :)

You pretty much said everything I wanted to and I don't know if I like or hate being away from the mother country. It is true that things didn't get political until later. The way I always think of it is if a large part of your family dies horribly, and it's after a few weeks of mourning that you realize your relatives and neighbors are bickering about the will.

That's a really good way of putting it. It does feel like that, where you're just so swept away by the pain and some people try to counter the pain with love, and then you slowly realize that people around you are countering it with anger.

Your dad is a very articulate man, simple as that statement was. My parents were in a frenzy, practically. They didn't go so far as to pull me out of school like some others did, though.

I can't believe it's been six years already. That's so unreal.

My dad is one of those people who is really, truly brilliant and yet I don't think anyone around him ever acknowledged it, so he doesn't. He is always good at simplicity, and at coming to the truth of a situation.

I remember the giving blood thing. I'm deathly afraid of needles. Deathly. I avoid them if at all possible. But yet, here I was, at 17, thisclose to giving blood. They lowered the weight limit to 110, but I was still only 108, so I couldn't give blood. And it's just funny to think that I was so willing to give blood, when I can't stand needles, to help people I don't even know.

Incidentally, one of my friends had a grandpa that worked in the Towers. He died. And it's crazy, because a small city in Georgia was affected by it, too, even though we weren't impacted directly like you guys were.

The sad thing is that so much of that blood went to no one. But it was such a kind thing, such an outpouring of generosity from so many people. <3

The interesting thing to me is that it seems like more people are writing about it this year than in any other year past. I started LJ-ing in 2003, and I can't remember much being said on the anniversary during years past. I wonder if it's the current political climate, if it's the ages of people involved, or if it's only just starting to be long ago that it seems like something to be "remembered." It is crazy to me that there are now kids in school who have absolutely no recollection of that day.

I don't want to sound as if I think the whole world revolves around me, but it looks like a lot of the people I know who are posting about it are doing it in response to my post. Which is kind of nice. I don't remember people doing it quite like this in the past, either.

I've only posted on 9/11 a couple times. The first anniversary, I couldn't handle it. The second one, I was angry that there weren't a lot of people openly remembering.

I think I haven't posted on 9/11 since. This year, when I realized it was a Tuesday again, I started to feel like maybe I should. It's like, the day has come round again. This time it's raining.

I was in Germany. It was about four or five in the afternoon, for me, and my host mom came and got me because there was something on TV that I needed to see.

I trooped up to my host sister's room and the first thing I saw was the Pentagon on fire. Oh, okay, that's not so bad, I thought, and then the camera cut to the burning Trade Centers.

I don't remember a lot of the rest of that day. I remember being very cold, and talking to my mom on the phone, and eventually crying myself to sleep.

Wow. I think being halfway around the world that day would have been utterly surreal. Thanks.

I still have mixed feelings about how 9/11 affected the world as a whole in the long run, but I do remember seeing the first tower collapsing on TV and feeling really upset. I saw a show on the construction of the towers a few months earlier and that made it worse somehow. There was a ton of coverage showing people jumping out of the windows of buildings and feeling just so sad over the whole thing.

I also remember my boss at the time not caring and turning off the radio in our office. That stupid radio was on constantly... if I turned it off, he turned it on, so I was especially put off that turned it off that day.

I remember it very well

I was in my local library, checking my emails and surfing, and I saw a headline on Yahoo!News - "Terrorists attack World Trade Centre". Now, at this point I figure it's a car bomb or at absolute worst, some guys with a lot of guns have run into one of the towers and run amok.

Then I got a call from my friend Jenny telling me I had to come to her flat ASAP. I got there just in time to see the footage of the second plane hit, she told me that was the second plane that had hit the towers. We just sort of sank onto her sofa and held each other for a while, we really could not believe what we were seeing.

t was so totally, utterly surreal, I don't mean this in a flippant way, but it was like watching a movie, because I just could not get my head around the fact that people had flown jet planes into a building. That's what I remember most, the air of unreality, that and wondering if the next footage we saw would be a plane hitting Big Ben, or the Telecom tower.

There's been loads of documentaries on TV over here about the events, I can't watch them.

See, I want to read things like this. We heard so much about New York City "pulling together" in the days after, but we couldn't really have told you if it was true.

I do get tired of being told I was not affected, I should stop acting like I was affected. Because -everyone was-.

Yeah, I think hearing personal experiences is much more important than hearing grandiose statements about what everyone did or felt. Because most of those are either lies or being used toward political ends.

I think one of the problems, especially in New York, is that we get barraged with people from the rest of the country acting as if it affected them more. Or people telling us how it should be affecting us. Or acting like they know what it was like to be here in the weeks that followed when the entire city smelled like burning people. There is a big difference between being able to say "This is where I was. This is how it affected me," and behaving like watching it on TV was the same thing as actually seeing it first-hand (I was in a different neighborhood than the actual disaster, so most of my experience that day after I left my office involved helping people who were covered in soot or trying to find relatives, which is very different from the people who were actually covered in soot or trying to find relatives). There seem to be a lot of people who think 9/11 was a movie and watching it on TV was exactly the same as being at the actual scene.

I think the difference with you is that you realized that it wasn't, that it wasn't a movie on TV and that those were real people. And I loved reading your response. But I think most of the time, when we New Yorkers hear people from the rest of the country arguing about how they were affected, too, it is generally in a self-superior, "Well, we know all about what you went through because we saw it on Fox News!" sort of way, and it gets old after a while and we get sick of smiling and nodding when we know they have no fucking clue what it was like. The problem is that a lot of people can't see the difference between "Everyone was affected" and "everyone experienced the immense tragedy firsthand." It doesn't mean that the people who were actually here are better than the people who weren't-- we were just unluckier. But it does mean we were all affected differently. No one's experience that day was exactly alike. You get that. A lot of people don't.

_samalander wrote an AWESOME post about living in DC during 9/11, which is a perspective that gets ignored a lot. I don't know if she unlocked it or not, but if it's unlocked, definitely read it.

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