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11 September 2008 @ 05:25 am
September 11, 2001  
I hate that various political powers have made a catch phrase of 9/11 so that when real people have real stories, I have to fight the urge to block out what they're saying because of the knee-jerk reaction I've developed to that phrase - the abuse of it for political sympathy and justifying any number of things I do or (mostly) don't agree with.

Some of you may share that knee-jerk reaction with me. I hope you'll put it aside for a moment, because I have a story to share, and a story to share, and the women I know who did something that, 7 years ago, finally let me fight through a terrible paralysis back to my actual life.

For my sensitive friends, please feel free to put this on hold and read it when you can be alone with it. I bawled while I was writing it. You're probably going to cry reading it. It is that ever elusive ever present Hope for Humanity that breaks and makes our hearts.

indiefic, I hope you'll forgive me for not giving you a heads up first on this. I just found out a few days ago, and haven't had the emotional fortitude to call and tell you the story without just blubbering like a crazy woman, and I know you're crazy swamped with work at the moment. Please feel free to skip this as long as you need to. I love you.

Jey and I moved to Seattle in August of 2001, knowing only each other in the area. We moved out of corporate housing and into our first apartment on Mercer Island later that month. Jey was unemployed and still driving me to work at that point in his beautiful white Subaru WRX (oh how I miss that car), before I started walking to the Park and Ride along the bike trail and taking the 550 into the bus tunnel every morning.

I set my alarm and woke up to NPR every morning, because I'd gotten sick of my current events ignorance and political apathy and was doing something about it (sadly, I've never returned to this habit. Maybe it's finally time.)

NPR kicked on at the usual time, and Jey made a grumpy noise and rolled over; he usually slept through the 45 minutes of drifting, half listening to news or snoozing one more time, one more time. It didn't register immediately, what they were saying. My brain was caching it and only as I played it back did I begin to understand that something was incredibly wrong. I shot up and slammed the TV on and flipped to CNN. I needn't tell you what I saw. Those of you who experienced it, you remember. First, I didn't go to work because I was afraid there were planes headed for downtown Seattle. Then, I didn't go to work because I was hysterical.

Some people didn't feel much. Some people couldn't get their head around the numbers and make them into people. Some people said crazy things in mild voices like it turns out that the pyrotechnics and special effects in Hollywood were more or less accurate than we realized. Some people said things that gave me new perspective - that people in other countries experience this kind of terror daily - and finally, the USA would know what it is to leave the comfort of its infancy and enter into a harsh, more internationally sympathetic adolescence. Jey was very detached from the event, and didn't understand why, not having been there, I was completely mad with grief.

I've never had the disassociative ability to turn people into numbers. Every stranger I see on the street has a story to me, and a life and people they're connected to. It's always been that way for me. Every janitor is a real person, not just another bit of background noise. Every murderer on death row had a mother or a father or a book or a cat or something with which I could've identified at some point. It is an intense way to live, and it's hard to lean into it sometimes.

Jey checked out, leveled his character on Asheron's Call. I didn't have any friends in Seattle yet. Despite my phone aversion and hers, elise and I wound up spending the better part of two or three days on the phone with each other, crying, raging at the people around us who were apathetic, feeling helpless, doing impotent things like donating to Red Cross. We didn't sleep. We watched CNN hour after hour after hour because we couldn't stop. If we watched and we maintained vigilance, somehow, the rescue workers would find survivors, and we would be released from this paralysis.

A day passed. There were no survivors. Two days passed. There were no survivors. Three days passed.

In the end, what broke our paralysis were the stories of the goodness of people.

The people who fed and housed all of the stranded passengers of the grounded airplanes. I remember a piece on a town in Canada that was particularly touching.

The people who ran towards the buildings.

The tireless rescue workers.

The tireless people who materialized from nowhere and everywhere with all of the food they could carry to feed the rescue workers.

My friend, Sharon (sculptruth), spent 2 weeks at her restaurant cooking for firemen and rescue workers.

It is through these small acts that we attain grace. Something that a beautiful woman I know now in Seattle did then in New York gave me some small solace in those days, and released me to start fighting my way back to breathing, and going to work, and re-engaging in my life.

Sharon, thank you. For being fearless in your heartfulness. For facing every second of the aftermath in those weeks, and these years, to be somebody who lifts humanity up and shows us what incredible stuff we're made of, not for the sake of heroism, but because you have to do something.

elise, thank you. For being the only real person in my life during that time, and giving me hope that I wasn't completely lost in a sea of apathetic stereotyped cartoons. For crying with me. For being fearless in your heartfulness. I love you so much, and can't imagine who I'd be without you in my life.

In 2004, Sharon was able to write about her experience. She has briefly unlocked her posts under her September 11 LJ tag. If you can bear to be a bit fearless today, and have the heartfulness to be very careful and kind with any words you're inspired to leave, today is a good day to witness her experience. As she told me last night, September 11th isn't a day in September for her. It's in the middle of the night in January, it's tensing up over sirens 7 years later, it's being for the rest of her life no matter where she lives undeniably and absolutely a New Yorker.

I totally didn't get permission from Sharon to do this, and I'm absolutely certain she could take me in a fight while wearing fancy shoes, so I'm banking on her goodwill a bit.

And just to drive home how important it is to witness, I think Sharon says it best in the comments.

Beginning on September 11, 2001, I started signing my name differently. You may have noticed it at some point, thinking it was just a stylized signature. The dash is for everything until now, then here I am, and so shortly thereafter, it ends. Every time I sign my name, I am reminded of the unpredictably brief gift that is our life. Every time I sign my name, I remember that it happened in NY, and it could be Spain, or Seattle, or London, or Lawrence, or Brugge, or Baghdad, or Palestine, or Darfur .... Every time I sign my name, I'm saying CARPE FUCKING DIEM.


Kburgunder on September 11th, 2008 01:44 pm (UTC)
I did it. I dusted off my alarm clock and tuned it back to NPR. It was a piece on a guy with autism going to college. Until I wrote about it today, it never struck me that I've been avoiding my old wake-up-to-NPR habit for seven years.
indie: daisyindiefic on September 11th, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
Every time I see an email from you, I think about that dash. I love your guts. Thank you so much for posting this.
sculptruth on September 11th, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you too, for your bravery; it means more than I can articulate. I am glad to share. Even if it's scary.
Turtleturtlegrrl13 on September 11th, 2008 05:41 pm (UTC)
I got all teary. I always do when I think of that day. I wasn't there, but the Pentagon is close proximity to where my parents live. I also remembering flying home days after to be the surprise for my parent's anniversary. I never felt more scared and protected at the same time. I was definitely not used to walking around with many military soldiers just standing there with guns. It was very surreal. When I finally got home, my mother cried and then yelled at me for flying. I only flew home because I got my dad in casual conversation saying that the next few months will probably be the safest flying will ever be. He had no idea that he just gave me my answer to actually get on the plane. Trying to rationalize fear is not something I like to do. I still hate to fly and feel that fear every single time I fly. Sadly, I have to fly a lot to see my family.

Thank you for sharing this.