Twin Towers Disaster
(I wrote this the night that the attacks on the Twin Towers happened. My wife went to work that night and I was alone after my son went to bed. I sat down at the kitchen table in our little condo and as the television continued to play the ongoing events I wrote this. It may be a little unpolished but it was written all at once so it captures a lot of the emotion I felt at that moment.)
A woman comes to the bus stop and calmly reports that a plane crashed into the Twin Towers. She must be mistaken, I think. She probably means one of those small prop jobs. I imagine the buildings, standing resolutely, the shining legs of a metal god, shrugging off the accident like a mosquito bite. It was annoying but not too tragic. Didn’t a plane crash into the Empire State Building in the forties? I ignore the report and mention my little fact to the mothers surrounding me. My bit of trivia fails to move them.
Inside my house, TV graphics blaze with the words AMERICA UNDER ATTACK or ATTACK ON AMERICA. My wife and I wonder what the hell is going on. A second plane, just moments before we flipped on the TV, crashed into the other tower.
Then, a third crash. A plane slams into the Pentagon. My body shook. I want to puke. I don't know what to do with myself. I flip through the channels, absorbing as much of the information as possible. A fourth plane chrahes into a field in Pennsylvania!
America really was under attack! It was real! Planes are dropping from the sky. What else is out there?
We were feeling what other countries had felt throughout modern history. Images of Beruit, with its bombed out buildings and war torn streets, came to mind. I’m afraid of the skies over my own country. I compare the feeling to that of Britain when Germany pounded her with bombs. I feel the same shock that the people of Japan must have felt when they learned of the bombing of Hiroshima.
On thousands and thousands of postcards, magnets, ashtrays and chochkas in homes around the country--around the world--the Twin Towers boldly reach above every other building in New York. The towers were pillars of the financial world, not to mention the pride of our city. Now, somehow, someone has taken them away from us. Everyone housed inside and the emergency personal who risked their lives for others went down with them.
America has some scars. Pearl Harbor, Oklahoma City and the Kennedy assassination crease our nation’s soul with sadness. This tragedy burns the heart of America. How can we heal from this wound? Will we heal? Those questions we cannot answer except by waiting out the days.
My son comes home from school at 3:30. I am numb to the events. I saw the crash from every angle. I heard all the commentary. I passed through all the classic phases one deals with during tragedies such as this. He announces that he knew all about it already. We explain the seriousness of the situation but I fear that he may be too young to understand.
We watch the news for him while he plays with his friends, exchanging playground rumors. Hours later, after my wife, a nurse, goes to work her midnight shift, I sit in my kitchen wondering what to do next.
I worry most about bedtime. Not mine, but my son’s. How do I put my child to bed tonight and pretend that he’s safe? I feel vulnerable, more than ever before in my life. What do I tell my son about this great American tragedy?
I look at the skyline of Manhattan on my television now darkened by night. A red cloud billows from the space between buildings where the World Trade Center should be. A pit has opened and swallowed the Twin Towers. I imagine the great groan of some demon as the building plunges further down into the maw. With the help of the media we are all huddled around that pit looking down, consoling each other, getting angry, crying over the loss, warming ourselves by the fire of this tragedy.
I tuck in my son to a clear, starry night. I don’t want to let go of him. I don’t want to walk out of his room and pretend that this is not a big deal. I pray as I finally leave him to sleep that he never knows the fear of the world that I do right now.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Twin Towers Disaster