The view from my desk is so very different from what it was when I lived in New York — well, besides the fact that I’m not looking at New York. I look at eucalyptus trees and grass and men on lawnmowers and toddlers in red wheelbarrows pulled by their parents and bland late 60s university architecture. All day, I’ve been looking out the window while the scanner hummed — I have been compiling an archive of documents for a lawsuit I’m filing against one of the debt collectors that sued me — and I have been able to avoid thinking about what happened on this day five years ago.
When I lived in New York, I couldn’t look out the window without seeing, or feeling, the terror of that morning and the weeks and months that followed. From my window of West 13th Street, where I lived on September 11 and for another two months, I could see the missing posters on the telephone polls, and I could see, and smell, the smoke, that horrible smell of burning plastic and rubber and oil and things I can’t bring myself to name. At night, I could see the white glow of the flood lights at Ground Zero. Then when I lived on Norfolk Street, my window looked out on an elementary school playground. I could hear the children screaming, and I loved it. But I was even closer, and the smell was stronger, and the sirens louder. But those kids were so alive. Kids are so resilient; even if they are going to remember that time in different, and perhaps more damaging, ways, they still bounced around, brave and silly, while so many of the adults were drinking and crying and popping Xanax and having terrorism sex. In Williamsburg, where I moved in February of 2002, I would have been able to the see the towers from my window, if they had still been there. For several months, I could still see the smoke, or the dust, or maybe it was just my imagination, when I looked out the window, when I looked across the river and down to the right a little.
One of the reasons I left New York was so that I wouldn’t be able to see New York anymore, so that I couldn’t so easily be reminded of how I felt back then. Terrified. Depressed. Sad in a way that is indescribable, except to say that it was a sadness more powerful and deeply engrained in my gut than anything I have ever felt, or could have imagined feeling. And it wasn’t just the events of September 11 that put me in that state of being; I was slowly breaking up with my partner and my unemployment was not caused by choice. Everything fed on each other, but my memories of that sadness are focused on September 11 and the posters and the smell and flood lights and the smoke. Of course, I left New York for a lot of reasons, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I would still be in New York, living a very different life, if geopolitics, capitalism, religious fanaticism, and government incompetence hadn’t converged on a perfect morning five years ago.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7r_y_SVRaEE]I was going to write a post about what my September 11, 2001, was like. Where I was, and what I did. But I can’t bring myself to do it. I’ll do it another time. It was a pretty bland day, compared to what so many people experienced. I don’t want to go into those specifics; they hurt and they exhaust me, and they almost sound like bragging, especially now that I don’t live in New York. Today, I prefer the vagary of art. I’m listening to Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” right now. I seem to do that every year. I found a video of him doing the title track on the Grammys. It’s an amazing performance, of course, but it’s too bad that Robin Williams was asked to introduce the song. I love him, but his tone is pretty off. Though, what is the right tone for talking about September 11? I don’t know. It’s hard to say.