I’m wearing black today. I’m not sure how many people will understand that I am in mourning, here in Central PA. Will they think it odd? Will they even think about it at all? The months cycle through, the days roll around, and once again, I find myself facing another calendar date: 9/11.
I’ve heard that people know exactly where they were, what they were doing, the moment they heard JFK had been shot. I used to wonder how they could possibly know. How could they remember a single moment in time? I know now what it means to have my own frozen moment. I know exactly where I was when I heard that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade towers. I was sitting in the car, at the intersection of Elmwood and College Avenues, waiting for the light to change on my way into class. I was late and trying to decide where I could park illegally long enough to get through class but not get ticketed, so I almost missed the announcement of the first tower. I was confused, and almost sat through another change of lights. The morning went on, and the nightmare got worse. We stood around the tv in the classroom, studies forgotten, as images of billowing smoke and collapsing buildings filled the screen and my world. I spent countless, fruitless attempts trying to get through to my friends who worked in that area of Manhattan, out of my mind wondering whether they were safe or dead, or under the rubble somewhere between the two.
Being a transplanted New Yorker, I have a catalog of memories of New York and the twin towers. I had friends who worked in the towers; I’ve eaten at the top of the towers. I’ve shown my (now) husband the (then) underground shopping complex right outside the subway doors. It has been six years, and I still spill tears at the thought of the towers coming down. For six years, I haven’t been able to bring myself to see ground zero firsthand. I can’t even really go back and look at the real time images of the smoking towers, of the collapse of NYC icons, of survivors and firemen and police officers covered in ash. I think that these things make it all too real once again for me, and I’m not sure I can bear to feel the terror and confusion again.
In November, I’ve got seats on a bus trip with my daughter to go into NYC for the day, “to do as we please.” They provide the transport, we provide the amusement. My daughter is now old enough to see some of my old well worn haunts, and maybe hear some (selectively edited) stories of me as a 20-something on my own in Manhattan.I can show her old neighborhoods. I can show her some of my favorite restaurants and holes in the wall. I can even show her some trademark NYC landmarks, but some things are simply gone forever. I’m hard pressed to explain, in a parental sense, how I spent many nights at The Limelight, or The Blue Note, or CBGBs, sticking to beer slicked floors, within spitting distance of truly cool, truly underground music icons. But alas, all good things must come to an end. CBGBs’ doors are closed for good. My life as a single city girl is long gone. And the twin towers will never hold up the New York skyline again. I still ache in grief over innocence lost, on so many levels. For something that we share as Americans, it is oddly personal to me. That frozen moment in time is mine to hold, to remember, to keep to myself as one of the most personal memories I own.
We’ll see if I can bring myself to gaze upon Ground Zero in November. Perhaps it is better to see it in a colder month, while New Yorkers bundle up and move on with their lives. In the meantime, I wear black and quietly cry in memoriam.
For all of us.