Thursday, September 29, 2005

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.



The Guvnor said...

it was certainly a strange feeling that day. i got the new via my cellphone (mobile phone to us brits) telling me a plane had flown into the twin towers. the first thing i asked was if it was a small prop plane because (how strange to thing...) that is as far as my imagination (which is pretty wild) was prepared to go.

it was when i got the second phone call about the second plane that i imediately said 'terrorism' and when one flew into the pentagon i said 'this will mean war'.

it is funny how we easily forget how we felt on 9/11. your child may have been too young to understand how the world changed that day.

for some of us who are old enough to understand, there is more that has changed than just a war in iraq. this was the first time many saw a 'live' action movie unfold infront of their own eyes. media change, blogging may have become an important part of many peoples life as a result of the reporting on 911. we watched the plane go into the tower in disbelief, now such a thing happening is highly likely due to technology...people are more media savvy. They will get video or photo's of these things when they happen. people are ready. but who would ever have thought they could be witness to such mind boggling events prior to 911.

on a political side i wouldnt say anything really changed, just peoples hands were forced into action. hatred that is here now, was always there before (hence 9/11 as many people forget).

ObilonKenobi said...

I agree. Hatred has been here and probably has not increased because of this administration's actions. Not that we've made it worse but we've been utilizing resources in the wrong direction. I read that Bill Clinton worried that without a major war he would never be remembered with great presidents like FDR. I think that's a strange and morose thing to say but I guess it's the truth. He will be remembered more for Monicagate than anything else. History will judge Bush and hopefully after the literal and figurative smoke clears we can look back and say he did something good but I doubt it. According to the New Yorker, Bush also turned to Gore during their election campaign and said that a natural disaster proves a leader's mettle. I say that's morose and true as well. And I also say that he failed on that test. He only had to cut his vacation short by two or three days as I recall. It seesm that whether by bad luck or something else, Bush is always on vacation right before or suring an emergency in this country. Of course he times the enagement in Iraq so it would be "Mission Accomplished" in time for his next vaca.

I remember how I felt before 9/11, on and immediately after that day and now. I grew up that day and I become more afraid as my essay says. i also got a sense of purpose to my life and growing up was a loss of innocence and also a gaining a sense of social responsibility.