Wednesday, September 11, 2002

I know I've been uncharacteristically silent the past few days. It was enough to get Jackie to call me when I didn't show up for Stitch-n-Bitch last night, just to make sure nothing was wrong. That was so sweet of her. Nothing's wrong. Nothing particular. Just been feeling not very chatty, not very knitty, and not very sure what to say. The not very knitty part is probably because of my marathon "Moo" session the other day. The not very chatty is more date-driven. I've been feeling less and less talkative as today grew closer.

I'm at work today, though I'd rather not be. Some idiot scheduled a client presentation tomorrow and it's not complete. I didn't come in until around 11:30, but I really don't want to be here. It feels wrong, it feels disrespectful to the memory of those who died, and to the memory of what I felt at this time last year. I would have preferred to spend this day quietly, or maybe doing something constructive, rather than being pressured into coming to work even though the official party line from our president was "do what you are comfortable with."

A year ago today, I was lying in bed on a quiet and lovely morning. I was still in bed because I had no job, nowhere I had to go. And for a change, instead of turning on the Today show as soon as I woke up, I decided to just let Ryan sleep and just listen to the silence all around me, admiring the sun coming through the window. I had no idea what was going on just over a mile from my apartment until my best friend Lisa's mother called me from Albany, worried enough that she wanted to make sure I was home.

The rest of the morning was almost a blur. I remember that Ryan was talking on the phone with his Mom when his cellphone rang, and it was a freelance client of his, wanting to talk about some work. I was absolutely stunned that this woman, who lived and worked here in the city, could be calling about work at such a time. As I was telling her he was talking to his Mom, I saw on TV that the first tower was starting to fall. I completely lost my mind and remember just screaming "oh my god, it's falling, oh my god they're all dead" and I sort of remember her saying she'd call Ryan later. To this day I have trouble relating to this woman because of what I felt was a very insensitive reaction on her part. I must have been pretty hysterical because I remember seeing my cat freeze in the middle of the floor and look at me with a frightened expression.

After the second tower fell, we decided to venture outside for a bit. Survivors were streaming up 3rd Avenue past my apartment. We walked a block south to 14th Street, and were standing on the corner when a guy wearing suit pants, an undershirt and carrying a suitcase appeared in my face and said "hey." I was totally stunned to see someone I had only met that previous Sunday. My friend Shari lives in San Francisco, and her boyfriend Jeffrey was in NYC on business for 2 weeks, and she had flown out that weekend to meet him, and we had gotten together for brunch that Sunday. He had been working in the World Financial Center, and was supposed to have flown back to SF that afternoon. He and several of his colleagues had escaped and were just walking uptown, trying to find someplace to go. We took them back to my apartment, gave them water, telephones and internet access, and at least they were able to rest a bit and let their loved ones know they were OK. What a weird coincidence it was. Two minutes later and I never would have seen him.

Other stories started to unfold. Cara's husband works at Morgan Stanley, and had been working on a project at the WTC for several months. On September 11th he was playing golf in New Jersey with some colleagues. Everyone he usually worked with got out OK, but it was still a huge relief to all of us that he wasn't there that day.

But so many other people were not so lucky. I was lucky not to lose anyone close to me, but I still grieved for school friends who I hadn't seen in years who were killed. Steven and Marc were brothers, and Tom was their brother-in-law, and they all died together at Cantor Fitzgerald.

I had a lot of trouble in the days following September 11th. A week later I had to leave the house alone for the first time, and I nearly had a nervous breakdown. My friend Diana talked me down and got me out of the house. But it was still hard to feel normal for so long. Hard to not feel guilty if I laughed or enjoyed something. Hard to live with the smell of "dead building" (as Ryan christened it) seeping inside my apartment every day. I remember I was still burning scented candles and using the air conditioner in November to try and keep the smell out of my apartment. The day the fires finally stopped smoking was a big day for me, physically and emotionally.

One thing that I found helpful was some writing I did online. My brother was working in London then, and a friend of his at BBC radio asked if he had any friends in NYC they could interview. Naturally he suggested me, and I ended up doing a series of interviews over 2 months for their morning radio show (all done live at 7:15 a.m. their time, 2:15 for me) and writing a semi-regular journal for their website. That was somewhat cathartic, and marked my first foray into online journaling in any way. I did a follow-up interview this morning at 2:15, which felt kind of weird. It was a new announcer and it just seemed odd to be talking to her about this for the first time.

So for the past few days, I've been trying to figure out what I was going to say today. I felt like I had to say something important. Then I felt like it was presumptuous for me to say anything important. Then I figured I would just say what came to mind and it would be OK. So that's what I've done, for better or for worse.


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