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somber gal

2002-09-05 - 4:00 p.m.

As Sept. 11, 2002, approaches, I'm starting to look back at this year with a real sense of wonder. On September 12, 2001, if anyone had told me that I would be sitting at my computer today and everything would be "normal" again, I would have called that person a naive idiot befor laughing bitterly and collapsing into tears. I was sure that we would have seen weapons of mass destruction being used and nothing would ever be the same. But here I am and things mostly ARE the same.

Yet still--I'm starting to get more and more nervous with every day. Are they going to do something right before? Right after? Yesterday I asked my husband if he thought I should use one of my sick days and stay home Sept. 12, since he thought it was likely something was going to go down. But what if I did? My apartment is less than a mile from the Pentagon. So they do a dirty bomb at Pentagon City mall--I'm safer at work than I am in my home. When the plane went into the Pentagon, R. felt the impact. He felt the plane go over our building--so close it shook books off the shelves. I'd been at the Pentagon only 20 minutes before. A friend of a friend has marks on her car from the landing gear. The morning after I could smell the smoke from the Pentagon in my apartment. We talked with a friend that night--he was part of the Arlington National Cemetery honor guard, which was on clean-up duty. He told us about seeing body parts and computers still on, about seeing a severed hand in a room where nothing else looked touched. He told us about the faces of the people waiting outside, and how he couldn't think of what to say to them because he knew they would never see those for whom they waited, because even if they'd survived the fires, they were probably drowned in the jet fuel. Me, I won't forget driving by the Pentagon right after. The first time, on Thursday the 13th, it was all I could do not to vomit. The thing that still haunts me was the desk hanging out of the hole. I could see into the office and see that desk with the chair right behind it.

Sept. 11 changed my life in ways I'm only beginning to understand. New York was big and messy and much more people died, but in DC, it's two degrees of separation. Everyone knows someone who knows someone. Everyone here has their story about when they honestly thought, deep down in their bones, that they were going to die. I had mine Friday morning, riding the bus. There were two men fiddling with a briefcase--I thought for sure it was a bomb and the suicide bombing had started. An experience like that changes you fundamentally. On the 11th, I had moments where I thought I was never going to see R. again. I understand now why my grandparents' generation put people in internment camps. It wasn't right then and it isn't right now, but suddenly the attitude was comprehensible to me. Like I said, things changed for me that week.

Now things feel pretty much like normal. We still get the occasional scare--when the alert went out about Al Qaeda renting apartments and blowing them up, R and I were pretty sure that our building would be a good target--right next to the Pentagon, plenty of military folk. But our lives carry on like normal. I'm steeling myself up for the next event--I get the feeling it's not long off.

As September 11, 2002 approaches, I find myself dragging my feet going towards the anniversary. The play I saw the other night raised a lot of issues for me, and I realized that I still can't understand what in my world has changed and what has remained the same. I'm wondering if it's safe to take the Metro next week.

Light a candle, kids.

The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/ Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,/ The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/ The ceremony of innocence is drowned;/ The best lack all convictions, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;/ Surely the Second Coming is at hand./ The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out/ When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi/ Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert/ A shape with lion body and the head of a man,/ A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,/ Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it/ Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds./ The darkness drops again; but now I know/ That twenty centuries of stony sleep/ Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,/And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/ Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


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