Archive for » January 16th, 2006«

In the Shadow of No Towers

This is from a project for my American Lit class.

In the Shadow of No Towers brought the events of September 11, 2001 back to life. Vividly. I remember how shocked I was – it seemed like a movie, like it wasn’t real. I didn’t want it to be real.

I was getting ready for work when John called. “Turn on the TV. An airplane just hit the twin towers.” Kaitlyn and I watched in horror as the news recounted what had happened. I had to leave for work and could not stay to watch more. Just after I got on the road, Kaitlyn called. “Becky, the tower just fell.” I turned up the radio, my heart racing. Before long, I heard that the second tower fell, too. I called my mom in Missouri. I tried to speak through my tears, asking if she had heard what happened. Somehow, the news of the second tower reached us before it got to them.

When I got to work, I sat in my office in stunned silence. Even as others arrived about an hour later (I work an early shift), the office was quiet. The phones rarely rang. We walked around in a daze, talking about how this couldn’t be happening (oh, but it was). I went home mid-morning, unable to even read e-mail, much less make sense out of my work for that day.

For at least a week I kept the news on non-stop. I couldn’t watch anything else. I was crying all the time. I was edgy. Nervous. I wasn’t sleeping. I was immersed in a state of disbelief with no end in sight. But at some point—I’m not sure when—I overloaded. I couldn’t watch any more. I had to turn off the TV. But what about those in New York, those that couldn’t get away?  They didn’t have that luxury. They were living it.

Sometimes, though, I think New Yorkers try to claim exclusivity to September 11, that no one could know how they feel. Yet there were people killed at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. And we all lost some of our innocence. Our own personal tragedy here in San Diego would be the wildfires of 2003. Yes, they were started differently and we didn’t lose as many people. But for those of us in its path, it was terrifying. Just like New York, this attack moved quickly. It took us by surprise. We had no control. And we had nowhere to go. They are different experiences—and yet they are the same.

The fires came within a few miles of our home. Unsure what to do, we stayed. But we packed both cars with as much as we could, in case we needed to make a quick getaway. We debated whether to leave. But the question was, where to go? It seemed like all of San Diego was on fire. The sky was black wherever you turned. School and work were canceled. We had no central air, and couldn’t open the windows to get fresh air. We were stuck in hot, stuffy, smoky homes. I got a respiratory infection. I spent my 30th birthday locked in my house, scared, bewildered, and desperately ill. And through it all I watched my significant other handle the events with aplomb. He helped me make a list of what we should take. He helped load the vehicles. And he kept things calm, so if we needed to get out we could do it quickly and survive. He kept us focused, kept us safe, and kept panic from setting in.

It was then that I decided I wanted to marry that man. We’d been together almost six years, but I just wasn’t ready to marry a second time. Yet spending five days in my house with nothing to do but think, I figured out what’s important in my life. John. My parents. My friends. Not the things we own, although they have their place. It was the people in our lives. Some good things do come from awful situations, such as an appreciation for what we can walk away with. And that we can walk away.

And now, I try harder not to take things for granted like I once did. I hug my family and friends. I don’t hesitate to tell them that I love them. And I try to remember that the joy is in the journey. I try not to get caught up so much in just getting somewhere that I forget to enjoy the trip along the way. Because life is a journey, not a destination. And you never know when that journey will be cut short.

No Towers is a powerful work, full of anger and anxiety. It inspired me to do a few drawings of my own. I tried to capture my shock and disbelief at what was going on.

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