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Sunday September 23, 2001, 06:18

Though I would like nothing more than to stop thinking about "this," to stop referring to "the attack" or "the incident" or however else I have been referring to the events that transpired almost two weeks ago when the two planes crashed into the World Trade Towers in firey balls of death (which is really what they should be calling it on the news -- "Firey Balls of Death"), I really can't stop. Talk abounds, on the news, in daily life, of how "nothing will ever be the same" and how that day "changed everything" which seems so overly dramatic.

But it's true1.

The thing is that there is nothing more that people can talk about. This has become a defining situation for New Yorkers at least (and while I can't speak for the rest of the country, I'm certain that it hits fairly close to home anywhere you go). People now have a purpose, an agenda. When, in conversation, talk about the Trade Center attacks comes up, one will immediately be branded a patriot, or a liberal, or a liberal patriot, or an activist, a pacifist. Or whatever. But labels will be slapped on foreheads; debate will ensue.

And in that sense, there is something very interesting that has come out of this entire situation. While the man in the ice cream truck gestured out at the empty plaza while I fumbled for my change, informing me that business was slow and that the number of people out and about had dwindled down to a mere fraction of what it once was on a Saturday night, this event, this single event, has now given people some sense of definition.

The air was thick with a haze this evening that was, for the first time in days, not smoke from the burning rubble, drifting uptown. Cars were driving again, people we out drinking and eating and laughing, but there was a feeling that surrounded the city, a continued urgency blanketing all of us. The street lights flickered a little more than usual. The neon sign outside the all-night cafe burned just a little brighter, a little jumpier than it ever had before.

And I sat, sipping my tap water, and cracking jokes about how they, the faceless they, could be poisoning our water supply. I had a moment where I looked at the water, pondering the consequences of taking another sip. But simply a moment. The joke would be on me, wouldn't it?

But there is nothing more that people can talk about. Nothing more that seems appropriate any more. We sit out at a table on the sidewalk, commenting on peoples' clothing. As we always do. We note tattoos, piercings, and the unfortunate return of the eighties. And then we talk about the water supply. About possible escape plans. We joke and smile. Escape plan! Indeed. It is cast off as purely ridiculous. But perhaps we should be considering it in a more realistic light for at this point in time, anything is possible.

...

I write this and none of it seems real. If I try to write about "it" I find myself lacking sufficient words to describe what actually happened. To describe how I am actually feeling. I did not see the towers fall, though I am no more than a couple of miles away. I was inside, transferring photos to my website, not wanting to watch any more. I was not downtown when it happened. I did not experience, first-hand, everything that happened to me. I was not covered in dust and I have not lost anyone that I loved. When people ask me what it is that I was doing when I heard that the towers had been hit, I will say that I was asleep, pulling myself out of bed to the radio and staring at the large cloud of smoke that was drifting eastward. It was, and remains, just an abstraction of the actual events that took place.

So yes, this would be my guilt. I feel guilty not just for having lived through what happened, but for not having been in any danger at all. I feel badly for wanting any sympathy, or for feeling sad at all, because I was not there. I was here. And here, where I could see it but not smell the smoke and not feel the dust, was about as safe as any place else in the world.

And now I find myself tired and distant from everything else in the world. I fell asleep on the couch last night. Early. I woke up this morning. Cold. And I put on a sweater and tried to write something interesting. This. And, well. We all know what happened then. I say things that would lead me to believe that I want to do more. That I want to produce more. That I want to make more. And yet, when it comes down to it, all I'm really doing is complaining a lot and thinking a lot and not doing much of anything and all I really want to do is sleep.

Or decorate my apartment.

Or do just about anything else that does not involve thinking about the fact that, in fact, everything has changed.



1. Remember all the rhetoric about the expansion of my writing from something solely about me into something that was more an extension of my storytelling, about the world at large? Can it. This is all about me. For all my posturing and whatnot, this is pretty much me, really early in the morning, trying to work through my issues. Yeah.

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