Thursday, September 11, 2008

seven years later

I set my alarm for 7 a.m. and dragged a TV into my bedroom, a place where I barely have room to breathe, much less add another piece of furniture that doesn't even belong to me. The past six years I've watched widows and orphans, firemen and policewomen, read the names of people they lost in the towers.
I observe that day as one might observe the anniversary of someone's death. I didn't know anyone who died, but I felt like a part of me did. Someone who I used to be close to in high school said my idealism was contagious. He said he hoped I'd never lose that quality but that I had to be extra-careful to watch my back because shit happens. Every year I observe the moments of silence they dedicate to the times each plane hit. It's a reminder to me of how the night of September 10 I was with two new-found college friends jumping in puddles and anxiously awaiting a love letter from home and how on September 12 I couldn't breathe without covering my mouth and my mailbox still was empty.

But this time there was hardly a mention of it. I flipped through channels and newscasters were talking about the weather and a man who attempted flying and got saved by a tree when his flight suit went awry. "It's been 7 years since..." was mentioned for about 3 minutes on CBS, a channel I never even watch. And no one was mourning. Instead a man stood proudly in front of the ruins talking about the progress (or lack there of) of the Freedom Tower. People deal with grief in different ways and I am not going to tell this man he's not allowed to be proud, but I still can't wrap my mind around this solution.

I turned off the TV and went back to sleep for two hours, expecting to have dreams filled with explosions. I don't remember what I dreamed, but I woke up to sirens. I half-expected to see the Sears Tower aflame. That is just how my mind works now. My phone rang. It was Jenny calling and I let it go to voicemail. She's the only one of my friends I talked to at length on the phone that morning. I listened to her message as soon as she left it and her thoughtfulness made me tear up a little. "I just wanted to make sure you're okay. I know this isn't a great day for you." So I wasn't dreaming. Someone finally mentioned it.

I remember browsing a book store in college shortly after that day and seeing a coffee table book about the wire-walker, Philippe Petit. I remember flipping through the pages of black&white photos and staring in awe at this man suspended in the sky between the towers. I was breathless just looking at his act two-dimensionally, 25+ years later. So when I first heard about the documentary "Man On Wire" I couldn't wait for its release.

Before today, I had asked people on more than one occasion to go see it with me. But seeing as there were no takers and I'm unemployed with nothing else to do during the day, I planned ahead of time to see the movie alone on this seven-year marker.
I purposely put on an NYU shirt and headed out to the bus stop. As I waited there, I realized I forgot my phone, which I rarely do. I reflected on how that mirrored the actual day, a day before everyone and their toddlers had cell phones. I could have gone back for it, but I kind of like not being able to be reached. When the bus came to the last stop on North Avenue, I got off intending on taking the Clark Street bus all the way North to the movie theater, the only one showing the film within city limits. Then I remembered that I had paid cash for the first leg of the trip and therefore didn't have the capability to transfer for only 25 cents. Bogus. There was no way I was paying $8 round trip just to see a movie. So I walked, New York style.

I was one of four people at the screening and sat in the middle of my private row. From reading reviews I knew ahead of time that the documentarians purposefully did not mention September 11, that the film solely focused on Philippe Petit and what he accomplished. What the review did not reveal, though, (spoiler alert) is that there is actual video footage of the towers being constructed. And that is when I finally shed some tears. I cried because it was like 9/11 in see the buildings built from scratch, huge sheets of metal going up instead of crashing identical "ground zero" that would become "Windows to the World" instead of a mass graveyard...people happily hammering away instead of gasping in horror.
[taken on 5th avenue after the first plane hit]
At the World Trade Center dedication ceremony on April 4, 1973, a speaker says that the twin towers stand for "harmony and communication throughout the nations of the world...The World Trade Center is a living symbol of man’s dedication to world peace." Later, one of Petit's accomplices, in his interview, justified their act as "against the law-but not wicked or mean." And one of the photos of Petit made me involuntarily shiver. It was taken from the ground of a plane just above one of the towers while he stood on a tight rope between them. All of these sights and sound clips are so strange to hear, knowing what happens in the future.

I left the Landmark feeling uplifted. I walked slowly all the way back to the bus stop, not skipping upbeat songs that came on shuffle in my earphones, and found a glimmer of that long-lost wanting-to-change-the-world attitude.
[taken at Chicago's Park West on 7.11.08]
The election on November 4 is SO important. I've started wearing my Obama button whenever I leave the house. This world needs to change. More specifically, our country needs to change. We need to stop spending TRILLIONS of dollars on a war that should have never been waged in the first place. I don't even know how many zeros make a TRILLION, but I know they're enough to do some good in the world instead of destroying the lives and lands of more innocent people.
If you haven't already, register to vote. Now.