Serious post today to honor this date (and the first post in a long long time - as it turns out, having a real job cuts into my fucking around time, which is actually not a bad thing per se, but it means that something has to suffer and that something is this blog, though I suppose nobody's really "suffering" since nobody's reading this BS).
Anyway I wrote the following in 2001 shortly after 9/11. I wanted a personal memory for myself, but I shared it with close friends. Since then, I've posted it on MySpace (and I think I actually may still have a MySpace account, though I wouldn't know how to login...) and then on Facebook every year thereafter. If you know me for reals IRL then you've already read this. But the thing is that I still pull this out and read it every year. It's my way of remembering and my way of never forgetting.
Many have said that 9/11 showed the best and the worst side of humanity and the main examples are obvious. But what always struck me is how it took something this devastating to really bring us together as a country... and then how quickly we went back to our old, terrible selves. In the weeks after 9/11 people went out of their way to help each other. I doubt there are any real statistics on things, but I'd bet that things like road rage went down and acts of unsolicited kindness went up. And there was just this general feeling of true humanity.
But all of that slowly diminished and now I can't really say any of those "good" things that brought us together really remained, nor can I say that we are any better for it.
And what does it really say about us as a species if it takes something so horrifically awful to bring people together? It really did expose our best and our worst, but in a lot of less-obvious ways. And then you have to wonder: which is stronger? Our good side or our bad side? I have to say that I'm really not sure. I'm not going to go so far as to say that I think we are inherently evil as a species, but I will say that I don't think we are inherently good. I think we inherently have the potential to be either, but what path do most people take? I suppose that discussion is for another day....
Regardless, here's my account. You'll notice there's no capitalizations in it. It felt oddly inappropriate to capitalize anything in it, as if the capitalizations would put too much emphasis on the things that weren't as important as the account itself.
i was on an airplane that morning. we were going on vacation in the keys and flying into ft. lauderdale. my flight left dulles about a half hour before american flight 77 left dulles. they diverted us to orlando. said it was due to "weather." when we landed they told us there was a "security issue" and made us get off the plane. the terminal was empty and silent. the gate agents told us a plane had hit the world trade center. i had a picture of a cesna in my mind.
i called a friend at work (i worked on dulles airport property then) and she said the world trade center tower had "fallen down"
i said, "what do you mean 'fallen down'"?
we rented a car and drove from orlando to the keys (there was nothing else we could do). we listened to the radio in silence for 5 or 6 hours. there was nothing on but coverage. we heard tony blair's speech. it seemed so eloquent at the time. it made me cry. it was a beautiful day that day on the drive from central to southern florida, but even though it was sunny and warm, my memory of that day and that drive is always grey and silent. i stared out the window the entire time, but i couldn't tell you what was actually out there.
we checked into our hotel. it seemed so strange to us that people were still able to function and do their job, strained as it might have been, but how strange must we have seemed to them?
we sat in the room and watched TV. i couldn't stop myself from watching footage of the planes hitting and the towers falling over and over and over again. why did i feel the need to see it so many times? wasn't once enough? maybe it just was so far from the reality i had known up until that point that i had to see it as many times as possible in order to really believe it. or maybe i thought i might be able to understand it. but i wasn't able to understand it. i still don't. i doubt i ever will.
the remnants of a hurricane hit florida for the next couple of days. dreary rain. small quiet towns. restaurant workers and shop keepers not really "there" when you talked to them. trying to be nice. too nice maybe, but unable to hide the sadness.
the airports weren't open when we left so we drove all the way back home from the keys to virginia. the sun came out again the day we left. another silent drive, but this time every overpass had an american flag on it. i've never been a fan of overt patriotism, but on that day it was comforting and for the first time in several days, i felt something other than sadness and despair.
i felt hope.