Day Seven

Posted on February 12th, 2012 by Viveca in 9-11

Monday, 17 September 2001

GUEST DAY — I didn’t write anything on Day Seven, but Cynthia did:

This is not going to be a dramatic emotional message which dwells on the immense loss we have suffered, it will instead tell of what is happening now. It is not going to be a call to patriotism or solidarity. This is going to simply be an account of part of my experience in the past week, written in an effort to give some reality to anybody who might not fully understand what the people of Manhattan are going through. Just the regular people- not the firefighters or the rescue workers, nor the direct survivors or their families and not the families of victims. Just the regular people who are trying to find ways to get through their regular days with a lot of irregular circumstances. It will sound dramatic at times, but I will do my best to keep it factual instead of emotional. We have had quite enough emotional leading in the past week through the media and email forwards, and I would like to rally against it and ask that we begin to guide our own emotions and look to the future, no matter how uncertain it may seem. If you are experiencing it first-hand, or have just had enough of this to last a lifetime, stop reading. I understand- I feel that way.

My inspiration is the inundation of email I have received from around the country and the world- people’s efforts in lending comfort, and other’s call to arms. This is not about the personal words of comfort I have received- I hope those keep coming. This is about the forwards- The Canadian reporter- who wrote his words decades ago during the Vietnam war; the Afghani-American man’s words; the Miami reporter’s call to arms; the power-point presentation; etc. Images and prose reminding me to never forget.

Never forget?

On my way to work, the train is silent as we round the first bend where the towers used to peek at us and tell us we’re almost there. We see a gaping hole, and there is still smoke. But until then, and after that, if anyone is speaking, they are telling a story- an account of their own or someone else’s. It is the same on the ride home. It’s the same throughout the city.

The thousand faces I pass are in mourning- strained, pulled, grim. People have begun to laugh and smile again, but they still cut themselves short.somehow feeling guilty.

I have been on a first name basis with my building security guys since my second week at my office, 6 months ago. Now I have my bag searched every time I enter the building. Every time. I sit at my desk, and 10 times a day people pass to go to the window where I watched the second tower fall. They speak in hushed tones, but I hear them anyway- more accounts of where and when. I wish them away.

My building was evacuated last Thursday. I have countless friends who experienced the same- nearly all of them. There were over 90 bomb scares and evacuation from noon Wednesday until 6pm Thursday.

There have always been a lot of sirens in my neighborhood, now there are more. There are emergency vehicles everywhere, and I am way up on 34th Street. Just a few blocks away there are parking lots filled with military Hummers, and the military police are all around. Every time a plane passes overhead people look up- some stop. It’s a relief from the ominous silence of the skies last week with the occasional break only when the dark F16s flew overhead, but it’s still scary.

A friend who teaches of NYU tells of the displaced kids in his class who still can’t return to their dorms. The school is taking care of their basic amenities, but the strain is evident anyway.

My friend who was supposed to be on the 96th floor is missing 20 people he knew, his company is missing 300. The frantic email I sent him last Tuesday finally bounced back to me this past Monday- “server unavailable”.

I have heard from, and continue to hear from people I haven’t talked to in months, almost years. This is one of the few really good things.

People tell me I am lucky to have not lost anyone. Initially I agreed- and yes, I am lucky to not have lost a close friend or family member- but I have lost someone. I’ve experienced the death of many people I was close to in life, from many causes; murder, suicide, accident, overdose, and natural. I am familiar with that pain. This pain is the same, and in many ways worse. All of us lost someone- 5500 someones.

The smiling faces of the missing are everywhere on makeshift posters plastered to mailboxes, telephone poles, walls, and anything you can think of. Multiply the amount of people that are missing by the amount of flyers you would put up to find your father, mother or sibling. Can you imagine? There are usually people standing there looking at them. Sometimes an onlooker is crying, always they have that strained look that has become so familiar.

There are flags everywhere. EVERYWHERE. I found small amusement last nite walking down a street in Chinatown where all of the flags were hung backwards (the stars should be top left). Then I rounded the corner and unexpectedly came across a fire station. All of the stations in the city have makeshift memorials in front of them- candles, pictures, flowers, and mourners.

For the people of the city who don’t have cable, there is only one television station- CBS. Until today, that station was 24/7 news- past accounts, present situations, and future speculation. They were running out of things to say, so they got dramatic and told me about “the people who looked at themselves in the mirror for the last time and then walked away to go get dressed to die.” I don’t need to hear that, none of us do. I can make things up like that for myself- and I have…

…What exactly is in that dust I breathed as I walked downtown on Thursday to the memorial in Union Square Park?

Everyone wants to stop talking about it, but nobody can. We have nothing left to say, and yet we repeat the same things over and over again. We are scared- but most of us can’t even say of what specifically we are scared of. I know I don’t feel I am about to get blown up. But every time I am alone for more than 10 minutes I cry.

This is only part of what I’ve seen, and what we are experiencing.

I only wish I could forget. For 5 minutes- or for 5 seconds, if I should be so lucky to forget, I am asking that I be allowed.

…and the beat goes on…


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