Sunday, September 18, 2011

September the Eighteenth

A week ago, there was lots of attention payed to the September Eleventh attacks, the victims, the survivors, the attackers, the heros. I've spent the past two weeks or so feeling a lot about those attacks. It feels like the anniversary has passed, and life should resume. But a part of me remembers that when anniversaries of loss come around, the loss remains potent for much longer than a day. 
When the planes hit the towers, I was in second grade. I remember driving to school, and hearing on the radio that there was a plane crash and people died. My reaction was "yeah, so?" I was accustomed to fatal accidents. I'd been flying since I was little, and to a 3 or 4 or 5 year old, plane turbulence feels a lot like a car rolling over. In my little head, fatal plane crashes happened as often as fatal car crashes, which were common enough to have affected me.
I didn't understand the tragedy until I was in New York last spring and went to the temporary museum. That museum broke my heart, not because of the thousands of people that died, but for the many more thousands of people who lost someone they loved. Those people who would go on doing the dishes and going to school in spite of the pain that wracked their hearts.
One of the most interesting parts of "the anniversary" for me was Ira Glass' interviews with people who lost those they loved in the attack. Marian Fontana's comment was that the theme is " "never forget", but to heal, you have to forget." I guess she's right. Who is the rest of the world to bring up her tragedy and pain and loss as if it is our own?
We've been reading 9/11 poems in my English to kick off our poetry unit. Here's one of my favorites:
"8:48" by Iris Schwartz

It was 9:08 when a coworker told me
A plane had struck the World Trade Center
He could see a small fiery 
Photo on the net 
I am ashamed to say
I was upset 
Over a petty work issue
And thought there had been a 
Minor accident. Yes, 
My thoughts were on myself
It was 9:11 when other coworkers started 
Talking, milling around
Still, no announcement was made
Soon we heard that a second tower
Had been hit
No announcement yet and
We had to work
It was 9:27 when I realized that one of
My two best friends no longer works at some 
Other building downtown
That her new workplace, her new job
Is at Tower One
And I called and I called and I 
Called her office number but
Nobody answered and
The rings were the loudest, most
Disquieting sounds I had ever heard
It was 10:10 and still they wanted us to work
Though everyone I neared in the halls
In the bathroom in the pantry
Shook his or her head
In disbelief in horror in slow motion
It was 10:23 when I had
The presence of mind to call this best friend
At her home and was thrilled though terrified
To hear her sobbing to hear her 
Ragged voice
To hear her 
Tell of being a few blocks away and 
Seeing it all, and
Seeing and hearing from no one in her office
Though she had been calling and calling
And she lived just ten minutes from work
Had thought that was a blessing
Now she did not know
What had become of her coworkers
Some had become friends in
The last three months
At her centrally located new job 
At my office we were not yet told 
To go home and it was 12:30 when 
I went out to lunch. On the midtown streets
I saw armies of
Workers: white, blue, 
Pink collars 
Aged young in-between 
Scurrying shuffling dazed looking up into the sun 
Fearing more planes? 
I wanted to join them
I wanted to walk keep walking walk away 
I wanted to join my two best friends
My man
My cat
I didn’t even know then that 
Another friend in Brooklyn has
An ex-boyfriend who worked in Tower Two
We had doubled-dated, gone to Great 
Adventure Amusement Park 
I didn’t know to be scared for him as I was for all the 
People I didn’t know and
For myself, too, even though I wasn’t on site
And still I couldn’t lose sight of the fact that
We had to keep working though how could we
How could we edit words that now seemed to fall off the page as
We would later learn people were to fly try to fly off the towers
Finally at 2:04 we were told by voice-mail to 
Take off if we had personal things to attend to but
How do you attend to the death of
Thousands of people you do not know and to
The possible death and near death of people you do know
And to the destruction of your stupid innocence along with a
Landmark building, a symbol 
How do you return to work 
The next day at 9:00 because 
Otherwise it will be a personal day and
You do not have the time for a personal day
Who has the time the time
The time: it was 8:48

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