Tuesday September 11. 2001
< nothing >
I came into the glaze room, and NPR was on, as usual. The tones of the newscaster were serious.
What had happened?
A plane had crashed into the world trade center.
I felt like I was being sucked into a vaccum. Everything that was spinning, all the wild colors and feelings around me condensed into a single black point. I was outside my body, watching myself walk into the other room. I could hear myself repeating the words "oh my god, oh my god" over and over again. He doesn't work in the world trade center, I stammered. He works in the building right next to it, The World Financial Center. I had a flashback to last July, on that warm day when we went down to the Battery and he showed me where he worked, going through the glass walkway from the World Trade Center to the beauiful atrium of his building.
Some other force had taken control of me. My whole body was shaking uncontrollably and couldn't catch my breath. I could sense people gathering around me in concern. I don't have his work phone number, shit I never got his new one when he switched swifts in July. I can't call him.
Nick led me into the office and barely heard him say "dial 9". I was in a bubble. I was far far away. I found Olive's number on my cell phone, dialed it once with shaking hands, got nothing, and tried again. I got through. She sounded amazingly calm, as she usually did. She wasn't going to try to call and risk clogging the phone lines. She would let him call us. When he did, she would call me.
"I love you," she said.
"I love you too."
I don't know how I drove home. It's only two minutes from school. I don't remember anything except gasping and sobbing and running into my apartment and turning on the tv, checking my phone messages, logging onto my email. There was no email. I found myself looking at the email he had sent me right before I left at 8:30 that morning. I read it, over and over again. I wondered if this was the last email we would ever exchange. I emailed him again, knowing there would be no reply but doing it to comfort myself.
I watching the tv with disbelief, the smoke billowing up from the huge buildings. I watched as the first one collapsed, and then the second. I was outside my body again, but I could hear myself screaming at the TV. I was powerless to make it stop. I had no control. It was scary. I could feel myself landing facedown into the couch, sobbing. The world is ending, I thought. The world is ending and the man I love, the man I want to spend the rest of my life with, may be dead. I couldn't even begin to approach that thought. I couldn't even think of what it would be like. I shut myself off.
That feeling of surreality, detaching from my body and feelings. I actually told myself to wake up. This is a bad dream, Bethany. Wake up. Why didn't I talk to him last night. We were too tired, so we just said goodbye on IM, but we didn't talk to each other on the phone like we usually do. We were both tired. Why didn't I? Am i going to regret that for the rest of my life?
I hugged the stuffed animals he gave me. I cried to his picture. This can't be real. This can't be real.
I called my dad, by now hysterical. He called my Mom, and my Mom called me. And so on. I felt my voice crack and disintegrate like an earthquake faultline.
I lay down on the floor, studying my map of Manhattan, staring at the twenties and thirties, as if I was trying to will him there. Large drops of water dotted New Jersey, Midtown and Harlem.
Then Olive called back. John had called. John was okay.
John was okay. It was like coming down from a high. I had been a machine running too fast, and suddenly the power was cut. I sat down on my armchair, my face squashed into the blanket I had gotten in Disneyworld 7 years ago.
She said he had gotten out before the buildings collapsed, and just started walking north. He was in the Village. The phones were mostly down, but he would try to give me a call.
He was okay. I looked at the clock. it was 10:50. It had been an hour. An hour. One hour.
I can't believe this has happened. I hate this country. I hate the world. I hate this hate that has driven people to kill people, kill people who love other people. I hate this hate that threatened the life of the man I love.
The buildings, two of the tallest buildings in the world, are gone. People are gone with them. Last time I was on top of the World Trade Center was over two years ago, looking out on the whole island of Manhattan at such an incredible, dizzying height.
John called. He was in Chelsea now. I could barely hear him. He told me he and all his coworkers watched the second explosion from his 23rd floor window and then got out.
I've watched it over and over again, I said. I still can't believe it's happened.
Mr. Lausch, my high school Latin teacher, on one of his many tangents throughout the four years I had him, once pontificated on the presence of evil. "The Devil does exist as a real, evil entity," he intoned. I didn't believe him. I never believed him, until now.
Not to say I believe in the devil, because I don't. But now I know that evil exists. Maybe it had to touch my life for me to finally realize it was there. I had lived a life unsullied by any real violence or evil until now. I feel like my innocence has been ruined. Sure, Oklahoma City and Columbine saddened me, but only in an abstract way. But today, it was personal. It was in the city I loved, it was the man I loved. New York City was the invicible, glittering beast that no one could tame. No more.
Dad came down to stay with me for a while, and then we went out to get some lunch. I had fits of guilt, sitting there as I ate my reuben. And later while I was working in the studio. Why should I be living and breathing and doing these things when thousands of people are dead? Thousands of people. Thousands of people.
It was deserted at the studio. Classes had not been formally cancelled, but no one showed up. There were three different radio stations playing in the three different rooms, I went from NBC to NPR to KYW as walked through the studio. They repeated the information over and over again, and still I couldn't quite believe it.
Where were you when...
I talked to John again a couple minutes ago. He's home now. I hear his voice and think how lucky I am, because that hour of hell I went through is still going on for so many people. The agony of just not knowing. This thread of tension tightened inside of me isn't going to slacken until I can finally hold him in my arms and know he's really all right, in flesh and blood and skin.
(I would ask that you please not nominate this entry for any awards)
One Year Ago:
"I had quite forgotten there was a back room with vinyl records and CDs, so I went back there, idly looking for "Hejira" on vinyl. Flip, flip, flip...and suddenly I was staring at it."
Two Years Ago:
"It seems to me when people meet, and get to know each other, there's always some middle ground to be covered, a space to be filled. And then, once in a great while, you meet a person, and that space isn't there."