Moving on is a good thing. Forgetting is not.
Psalm 23, King James Translation
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
A Table in the Presence of Enemies
September 11, 2004
I don't keep track of days well. Was out late last night tending to business in Woodbury, NJ, almost two hours from my home in Scotch Plains, something that had to be done. Slept in this morning. If I hadn’t been checking out the work of fellow writers today on the Web, I wouldn't even know it was 9/11. My brother just missed death that day. He was pissed at his bosses and told them he wasn't coming in; otherwise, he'd have been under The Towers when the planes hit.
I'd come in from doing what I do on most days to see hell on the news; I’d been chauffeuring a kid and had crazy phone messages on my voice mail. “Nordette, turn on the news. They say the people have flown a plane into those World Towers in New York. I can’t reach Ben.” That was my mother, who’d confused TV news before. So I frowned at the phone.
Next message. “Nordette, call Mom. I can’t get through. Tell her I didn’t go to work today. Remember the damned Macy people pissed me off yesterday and I called in. Tell her I’m okay. I wasn’t at The Towers.” That was my brother. He’d told me the night before he wasn’t going in. He’d been working lots of overtime and had been asked to check up on a security issue that a staff person could handle. But something must be going on. My brother didn’t mix up the news.
The first CNN image I saw remains embedded in my brain, a plane crushing a glass and concrete titan, driving through it like the tower was a block of cheap sheetrock ... then a burgeoning inferno. I remember thinking accident, but a second plane! I remember thinking war. I recall the gray cloud billowing downward, people bursting through it, fleeing toward the cameras, naked fear on dusty faces, and the first tower crumbling. Sometime later the second would also.
I reached my mother and father, assured them that my brother and I were okay. My husband and I connected. His company had cancelled meetings. We didn’t know what to think or do about our children, one in elementary school nearby and another 25 minutes south at Rutgers University. After that, the phone lines went dead. When the phones came on line again much later I would reach my brother and have a spooky conversation; he could no longer see The Towers from his Staten Island apartment. “Nordette, I look out and see them all the time. I’m looking out my window. They’re gone!”
The TV morphed: hypnotist, magnet. I watched most of the day and shed no tears. And then, late that night, reporters had footage from earlier in the day, something I’d missed, footage with a terrible sound, a swoosh and thud. People. People hurling themselves from the second tower to escape being burned alive—the swoosh, the sound of their bodies speeding toward earth, the thud, their bodies hitting. And they interviewed a woman who explained what was happening. She stood outside The Towers and in the background I could see the bodies falling. The splitting began in the pit of my gut. I broke down and went to bed.
Today, I also recall, the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 near Pittsburg. We can shout, "Let's roll!" when the going gets unbearable. We've heard the stories of heroes staring down death. And friends in DC have recounted the chaos around my old stomping grounds and the strike against the Pentagon. I used to live in DC's Maryland suburbs.
September 11 is kind of always with me, more so when I drive over the bridge to New York City. The hole in the skyline trips emotional land mines in memory. For a long time I dreamed it. I’d dream I was in The Towers, trying to save people, or that I walked by Ground Zero amidst ghosts powdered with gray ash.
People whose sympathies seemed to wane toward NYC used to annoy me. I barked at anyone, including my mother, who hinted that NYC might not need more help. I even felt warmer toward Giuliani, whom previously I could not stand, the arrogant, adulterous dog. (And he rubbed me the wrong way even before I found out about his domestic issues.)
Yet none of my empathy with the families who lost loved ones, my own sense of personal loss, or my patriotism stoked by 9/11 resulted in my hating Muslims or Arab nations. Remembering that we Christians have our own skeletons, impostors who claim to know Jesus yet who have committed monstrous acts and falsely ascribed their deeds to the name of God, I’m careful not to label groups of people. Furthermore, I think it’s better to dump the barrel, toss out the bad apples, and keep the good. I like good ole’ American apple pie, don’t you?
As Americans, as anyone who believes the shedding of blood is not the answer to what ails us, we must mark this day, 9/11, each year, if for no other reason than to remind terrorists that we're still here and their heinous acts neither demean nor destroy us. Our heartfelt gestures--writing poems, prose, our moments of introspection, pinning ribbons upon lapels, the gatherings of hearts at homes and town squares--are so much more meaningful than the capitalistic shams of fake memorial coins, pewter paperweights, and Twin Tower snow globes. The seconds we take to reflect humanizes us, sensitizing us again to the incomprehensible, inoculating us against the incredulous so that we will not be a people at risk like those Santayana spoke of saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We are stronger because we remember.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I've tried to write about 9/11 several times since 2001 and usually end up with just rambling thoughts, a sort of puking on the page, as one writer puts it. These thoughts remain for my eyes only in a journal. I've commented about that day in response to other writers' pieces. Today, 9/11/04, I found myself responding again to a writer's piece on 9/11, Ed Matlack's poem, Today Just Another Day, and next I knew, I had this article. Thanks, Ed.
This is emotional. Sometimes I think we set emotional landmines for ourselves from time to time, and try and pretend they are simple, honest reminders. Oh don't take me wrong, I'm not in the least trying to take away anything about 9/11, I personally think it should be remembered not only on a one on one level but on a scale much larger than life, I just believe that over the last five years, we've done our best to shy away from it. We still can't look at it, as with both eyes and not tear up, so we do what we do best...turn away.
This is a great account of that day...When I wrote Standing Here Now, it was my way of saying I am moving on, but I will Never Forget.
Bless You Nordette.
If you've done one good thing by sharing this piece, it's to let those who have lost loved ones that can't talk or write about it begin the healing process. You saved a life today--Ed's. And I'm grateful. I can't even begin to imagine what he experienced--wouldn't even want to try.
We all were affected--I saw the initial breaking news about the "accident" at the WTC, and then here came that second airplane. Deliberately. Angled. In. Pierced like an arrow. Gone in nothing flat. And then that fireball.
I had to go to work so I didn't get to watch the news. Our boss kept us informed. You know what I said when he said the Towers fell? "110-storey buildings just. don't. fall." Real cynical. How I wish that were true and they still stood tall.
Later on that night, however...I turned on the TV...and watched for three straight hours...and cried like I'd never done before. To see those people choosing to die or die, the method ("This way or that way?") broke my heart. I still cringe inside. I still hear that sound. Over. And over. And over. *Tears*
Another life was saved on 9/11/01. MINE. That was the day I received my Gift of writing. :) If I'd kept going on the way I was, holding everything in, I would be jumping off a building. Thank God I've stuck around to see what goodness God's wrought in my life as a result of my writing. Not published yet (there's always hope LOL), but o, the people I've met, the people I've met! :)
Sorry for rambling, you just dregged up a lot of memories with your powerful pen--thank you, dear (((friend))).
Glad I could be of assistance and thinking of me and adding my poem for the day, sharing the laurels so to speak...Thanks!
This is my first year since that fateful day that I even feel halfway good, after losing a loved one there at the towers, I found I could not go on, could not even go to all the events covering the attack, did not want to be put on camera, did not want others to know of my loss...now this year, all of a sudden I start to write about my pain, I just needed to get it out, I needed to feel less strain...
Again, Nordette thanks for the above piece, it reminded me of that day quite clearly and thank you for including my name in your piece of excellent work...Keep Peace in your Heart, Ed & Rufuz