It occurs to me that this is Sep. 11. Time passes so quickly, but only when you think about it like that. Otherwise, sitting in a hospital waiting room, for example, or in class, time seems to drag on forever.
It’s important to remember. The special Time issue that came out right after the attacks, the one with the black border, predominantly comprised of pictures and analyses of the terrorists’ strategy? It had an editorial at the back (unfortunately I don’t remember the writer) that I agreed with wholeheartedly. It was obviously written in the aftermath, because it was tinged with rage, but a focused, laserlike rage, and it was intelligent. The gist of it was that we should not forget our anger. We should not let this event become another Hallmark movie, a made-for-TV special, a footnote in history. He urges that we must not let go of our shock, our hatred, our anger, because that’s what’s needed to pursue this thing to its bitter end. We can’t strike blindly, we can’t accuse without anything to back it up, but the greatest insult and dishonor to those who died and suffered would be to forget. To have the importance of what happened a year ago dissipate into another socio-historical event.
For me, it’s really how I’ll remember the 21st century starting.
It was evening here. Neva happened to be at my house, and we were reading comics, when she got a text from Katrice saying that a plane had crashed into the one of the Twin Towers. Curious, we went downstairs to the living room and found my family (along with cousin Ray) already watching the tragic events unfold live on CNN. When we saw the smoke and the size of the hole and the damage, we couldn’t believe it. This has been said many times but it really did look like something out of a summer blockbuster. The first thing we did was text our friends in New York about what was happening. We weren’t particularly worried about them, because it wasn’t known yet that the crash was intentional. We texted Quark and Lia, who, with Chris and Jomi, were in class at the New York Film Academy. Steph didn’t have a phone yet. Minutes later, the second plane hit, and EVERYONE saw it. And there was no doubt that it was deliberate. That’s when we started worrying. Ray was calling his family, who were calling his sister, who now lives in New York with a family of her own. Apparently Quark and the others didn’t know yet the extent of what was going on, because phone lines got impossibly tangled, and text messaging and cellphones were the fastest way of communicating with others. We told them what happened, they couldn’t believe it, then classes were canceled and smoke was already wafting in the streets outside. There’s an almost-funny story Chris mentioned where because they were in a film school, everyone— teachers and students, filed out with their videocameras and got some footage.
Even after I took Neva home, I was glued to the screen, switching back and forth between FOX News, CNN, and the BBC. I slept at 5 AM.
The days after that, reports were pouring in from people we knew: Steph smelled burning flesh, Martin, a classmate from high school, remembers seeing flakes falling from the towers, some of which were charred pieces of paper, others were sizzling pieces of what smelled like meat. He didn’t want to consider what it might’ve been. He personally saw some of the people falling out of the towers. One of my mom’s ex-secretaries, who she was very fond of, happened to be on vacation, and her sister was with her, when she was supposed to be in one of the towers on the same day for an interview. Their divine luck was even featured in a newspaper here.
For days we were just watching those three channels.
The picture now is murky. The propaganda against Bin Laden has been so effective you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks he didn’t do it, but has there really been any hard, substantial evidence? One of the most terrifying things about the attacks is that nobody outright claimed responsibility. They didn’t want any credit, just to terrorize, and perhaps send a message to America, that it was overconfident, complacent, and most of all, just as vulnerable as everybody else. I mean, all they had were airline steak knives and pilot training, and the absolute will that is necessary to sacrifice your own life for a cause that you believe is worth it.
Attorney General Ashcroft and the Bush administration have been able to pass a lot of ridiculous laws that actually actively curtail civil liberties. Ashcroft wants the FBI and CIA practically merged, and to grant them military powers. They’ve already allowed the FBI to access your mail without your knowing it. There’s a plan to set up concentration camps (and let’s repeat that for emphasis: CONCENTRATION CAMPS) for Americans who do not “cooperate” with the efforts against terrorism, efforts that are not delineated specifically to the point that people in authority can abuse that authority , point at someone and say, “Arrest him.” And it would be done without due process, without access to a lawyer or miranda rights. Most of the American people are unaware, ambivalent, or too swept-up in the wrong kind of patriotism to complain or protest. Or they’re scared, which is worse. It’s becoming a scary place to live. Actually, it’s slowly becoming a police state.
Currently, they’re planning to invade Iraq, a move that is not supported by other countries, and the suspicion (which I’m leaning towards myself) is that it’s a move to re-consolidate American support for the Bush administration, and to divert attention from the economic woes and scandals involving Enron, Worldcom, AOL Time/Warner, hell, even Martha Stewart (it’s a crowd the Bush family has been involved in for decades, as well). The realization of the American people that you can easily be swindled by CEOs because legislation can’t keep up with the changes, the complexities, the speed of the corporate, multinational, publicly-owned-stocks world.
No one should forget those who died.
No one should forget those who aided in the rescue attempts, whether it was their job, or they were just volunteering. Even dogs died in the hundreds from the shrapnel, going through the rubble, choking on smoke, getting wounded on glass.
No one should forget the brave passengers of Flight 93, who fought against the terrorists onboard, rushing them with pillows and trays as defense.
One of the most heart-breaking moments I will take to my grave is seeing the couple falling out of one of the burning buildings, hands clasped together (of course, lots of other people jumped, and there may have been other couples holding hands. They hit the pavement with such force that there was a pink mist. Think about that for a second. A pink mist.). I keep coming back to that image whenever I think of 9/11. So many questions. Did they jump? Did they fall? Were they pushed? Did they know each other? Did one love the other? Did one have to convince the other? How bad was it inside that they decided to end their life their own way by jumping out?
What was going through their minds in the freefall?
Did they regret anything?
I wrote a story about them. One day I’ll clean it up and give it to Harvey to draw.
Months later, the new Moby album, 18, comes out. There’s a song called Sleep Alone, which I realize, after several times of listening to it, is about Sep. 11, and that couple in particular. The chorus goes
“At least we were together
falling through the sky.”
falling through the sky.”