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September 11, 2009

Is 8 years how long it takes for a real memorial? Is it the amount of time it takes to process it? To extract ourselves from the moment and really look back? Because surfing around the web this morning, I see more real memorials of eight years ago today than I remember seeing since that very first anniversary of the worst day many of us can remember.

I read my college friend IWOM’s memories first, of what it was like living overseas on 9/11/2001.

Looking back eight years, I realize how much that day changed the way we did things. We were living in Chicago’s Loop, a few blocks from the Sears Tower. At the time, we were in the only residential building in the area. When the city of Chicago opted to evacuate the business district, we were the only ones left. And while many in our building left too, we stayed, not knowing what else to do.

Walking around Chicago that day, a beautiful sunny day with our infant son was a bizarre experience, as if we’d fallen into a post-apocalyptic movie. There were no cars on the streets, no busses, no clouds in the sky as we pushed AJ in his stroller to Grant Park, where we sat on a bench in the sun and stared at what we were not seeing. A single plane crossed the sky above us and we wondered.

That morning, while AJ napped and Mr. Spy ate breakfast, I was in my study sending a quick e-mail to my friend D while listening to the news on TV in the next room. In the middle of the email, I could tell something had happened. I walked back in and sat down on the bed with AJ, who had just woken up. And I watched as they talked about the plane crash. And watched as the second plane hit and the truth of the matter sank in and ran ice cold down my back and arms. I never finished the email. I never wrote to D again.

I spent a lot of that day in that very spot, watching and trying to reach Cranky, who, at the time, was working not far from the towers. And I thought about how every time I was in New York, I hurled myself into strange neighborhoods and walked and walked without fear of getting lost, because I could always look up to the towers to orient me.

The center was gone.

As we sat on the park bench, we knew we were going to leave. Because of that day, we left the city, stopped travelling, cocooned ourselves with the baby and thought about other things for a while. Eight years on, it still feels raw and horrible, but it is easier to talk about. And we are thinking of moving back to the city, because we realize what we’ve lost and are ready to redraw the map.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. freshhell permalink
    September 11, 2009 11:11 am

    I was thinking this morning about where I was on that day and found it hard to believe so much time had passed and yet – Dusty was proof of the time passage. She was nine months old and had been neglected that day by her caregiver who thought it was more important to plop her two-year-old son and the other toddler charge in front of the tv all day long, watching the towers fall over and over. Dusty was soon enrolled elsewhere.

  2. September 11, 2009 11:29 am

    I think I’ll have to tell my story of that day over at my place because it’s too long, but what you say about the quiet and what Freshhell says about the tv watching reminds me of it.

  3. crankygirl permalink
    September 11, 2009 12:33 pm

    Here in NY it feels like time has marched on. People don’t seem as sure as they have been that there will be another attack. Though on the subway this morning the conductor made an announcement wishing everyone solidarity and peace. I was shocked.

  4. September 11, 2009 1:01 pm

    I wonder if my experience is unusual. I was home with a 4 month old infant and still in a very cushioned La La Land of no sleep, no experience, no clue. The 9/11 events happened somewhere outside of me and I looked on, but only wondered if I should be feeling emotional about it. It has taken years for the reality to really sink into my psyche. I’m sure the haze of new motherhood (and possible undiagnosed PPD) is the cause, but I haven’t heard others have the same experience.

  5. September 11, 2009 5:33 pm

    Jill, not that unusual. I think some of us are just beginning to talk about it.

  6. September 11, 2009 5:45 pm

    Jill, I think if I’d been living somewhere else and maybe if I hadn’t spent so much of my life in the NY area, I would have cocooned with the baby too. But because we were living in the only building in our neighborhood not evacuated that day, and because there were people I knew in the area, I was sucked in. But I remember it as the day the cocoon burst.

  7. September 11, 2009 10:08 pm

    Harriet, this made my heart ache a little. I think we were all different before we knew that could happen.

  8. teranika permalink
    September 11, 2009 10:09 pm

    Cranky’s comment struck a chord. When I lived in NY after 911, and unfortunate events happened on buses and subways, New Yorkers seemed changed. More accepting. The feeling seemed to be, “We’ve lived through a lot worse. A stalled bus is nothing, really,” and they would leave the bus with a good-luck wish to the frustrated driver. This is not the angry New York that I remembered from before 911.

    Thanks also, Harriet, for posting the link to the expat’s memories. I similarly remember people checking in on me, and leaving a rose on a sculpture in my small town – a sculpture done by a New Yorker. It was the only object in that small town that directly linked me to NYC, and so it was my private way of connecting to the city again.

    Jill, I have a friend who worked on the 102nd floor of the North Tower until one week before – she lost her entire office of workers, and only broke down and cried about it for the first time last year. You are not alone.

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