Let’s Hear It For New York

by justine

I wasn’t going to write about 9/11, but this came out in my morning pages today…

Yesterday, I heard this woman on NPR speak about her husband dying in the World Trader Center attacks. I still can’t fathom all of that completely…

I was at school, senior year. 17 years old. It was 1st or 2nd period. I’d made an excuse to go to my locker, to skip class for a few minutes, when I saw a friend in the hall. He’s an anarchist, so when he said something about NYC being attacked I thought he was joking. Even having grown up on Long Island, I didn’t understand where the towers were or what “an attack” on them could mean.

He pulled me into the principal’s office where news coverage was streaming on the huge TV mounted in the corner. I don’t know how long we were there, but we ended up back in class, AP Environmental Science (which we affectionally dubbed APES). By that time another friend, who always arrived late with dramatic flair, had appeared with a video tape of the morning news that he’d captured at home and brought in.

Rumor was a kid or two in the Middle School had a parent there. Maybe there were announcements and / or an assembly but I remember we were told to just go to class as normal. Then I was in the AV room – they had small TV monitors the could access cable on.

Back then I didn’t have an iPad, iPhone, iPod. We couldn’t get on a computer. I didn’t even have a cell phone. Did I call home rom the payphone and Mom said we should stay at school? Did I go and try to find my brother, who was in 10 grade, or my sister who was in 8th grade? My memory runs blank.

Eventually we did get home. School seemed business as usual though the day probably fell apart. At home I don’t recall my parents looking worried or talking about it. The guy I was dating at the time, secretly no less, came by my house. I remember being outside in the cul-de-sac with him, the sun setting behind him, a slight chill in the air. He’d gone surfing that morning with a friend and then his friend went to work in Manhattan. He hadn’t heard from him all day. I don’t think we ever did.

We went back to school the next day to our first APES lab period outside. It was humid, but cool, the sun just starting to burn off the dew. We could smell something burning. Our teacher informed us in her delicate English accent that it was, in fact, NYC smoldering. She also made it a lecture point to contemplate the health ramifications of being anywhere near Ground Zero.

We heard of friends’ siblings walking across the bridges to get home, especially my one close friend’s brother. The days were odd and scary. Off kilter, moving in a haze. The world changed. But then I was caught up in the biggest web of my life and any matters outside of my own minuscule high school head didn’t matter. The person I was Summer 2001 was lost until this year, 2011.

So in a way, this is a 10th anniversary for me, because I can only related to these tragedies from where I stand. I didn’t know anyone who died. I didn’t become politically embroiled or torture myself by rereading stories from widows or 911 calls. My survival instinct went into overdrive and I avoided it. All of it.

But I’ve always felt myself a New Yorker first, and an American second, so it’s intriguing that 10 years from the day my home was attacked, I find myself in Los Angeles. And loving it. And leaning more and more towards staying here. Or that it’s taken me 9 years to come back to the self that I shot off from back then. That I’m more me now than I’ve been since I was 17.

But that’s all for another post. For tonight, I’m relishing the first Jets game of the season, being in my own home with my fiance and doggie, and so grateful for all of those people who rallied, rescued, supported, saved, walked, and died that day.

Let’s hear it for New York…