Monday, August 21, 2006

"Where were you..."

I'm on my way up to the library to do research on a day when it's absolutely gorgeous outside - bright sunshine and the breeze is cool - almost like Autumn. A trip to the library does not upset me in the least because my carrel has a nice window that opens up and looks down onto the student union square - I can read about medieval literature and think about (childishly) throwing spitballs for several hours this afternoon. We are preparing for our huge housewarming party - about 40-45 people are coming - maybe more. We must have enough beer and wine, plus, we're doing appetizers and dessert. The grocery list is made and we'll go shopping tonight.

Also, writing as jo(e) has an amazing post up about her reactions to and meditations on the new movie "World Trade Center." The comments to her post are also quite good. I was struck by how many people responded saying that they weren't ready to see it. I would have to count myself in that category as well, although I would be more okay with seeing "World Trade Center" than the one about the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania. One of the comments to jo(e)'s post also shared their memories of the Oklahoma City bombing, which strikes much closer to home for me.

I remember someone asking my parents a question one time at a party they were throwing. I was about 10 and was sort of falling asleep curled up under the coffee table: "Where were you when JFK was shot?" My parents and their friends started sharing their memories of that day - what they were doing when they heard, etc. I don't know why I remembered this question - I think it's because I wanted to know who Kennedy was (he was shot long before I was born). It occurs to me that, tragically, there will be another question asked at parties 20 years from now - perhaps even today: "Where were you on 9/11?" Will anyone ever forget? Don't think so.

I was leaving the Dutchman's house that morning and was talking to my mom on the phone in my car on the way home. We'd said goodbye and about 5 minutes later she called back and said "someone flew a plane into the WTC" - I thought it had to be a little plane that went off course (it's amazing how many people I've talked to/heard of who said that this was their first reaction as well...). But I got into my apartment and turned on the TV. I was watching the first tower burning and right as I was looking, we saw the other plane some into the screen and hit the second tower. All I could hear was my mother screaming the word "no, no" on the other end of the line.

We were lucky that we didn't know anyone who was killed in 9/11 or in the OKC bombing (although I couldn't get ahold of my mother for a long time). But I've heard stories of people who made it and who didn't and they're all very difficult to hear.

So, one of these days, my children will ask me where I was on 9/11 and I know I'll never forget every single thing that happened. Hopefully, they'll never have to remember one horrible day so vividly.


At 4:25 PM, Blogger molly said...

I'm one of the ones not ready to see the movie. Live near NYC and don't want to see the sight either, though I've passed close by. Too painful, even though I didn't lose anyone. And yes, I remember exactly what I was doing. It was the most beautiful day, hot, but the kind of day when nothing bad could happen, and then the world fell apart.

At 5:47 PM, Blogger Flavia said...

It happened right after I took my orals. I'd considered spending that previous weekend down in NYC (my orals were on a Friday), but was so exhausted that I'd decided to delay it until the following weekend.

That morning, I woke up a little late, and since Morning Edition went off the air in Grad School City at 9 a.m., I didn't turn on the radio immediately. About 9.50 I turned it on, in anticipation of the news at the top of the hour, and was surprised to hear what seemed to be a live broadcast. I didn't have a tv, and the news reports were confused and hard to understand. I heard the tower come down and woke my folks up on the West Coast.

Right after I left my apartment I ran into a friend, who'd also lived in NYC for several years, and we just stopped and stared at each other, not sure what to say. She was about to teach her second class session of the term. "How can I talk about the fucking sonnet today?" She asked. "Except, I mean. . . isn't that what the terrorists want? For me NOT to teach the sonnet? For no one ever to teach Shakespeare again? Well, fuck them! I WILL teach the motherfucking sonnet!"

In fact I did go down to NYC three days later, as I'd planned, staying with a friend who lived below 14th street (which at the time was still blocked off to non-residents). That acrid smell that was everywhere--and all those posters of missing loved ones, plastered on every vertical surface, all up and down the avenues--I'll never forget either of those things.

My friend and I didn't actually do anything that weekend. We just sat on his couch and drank ourselves into stupefaction.

At 5:44 PM, Anonymous What Now? said...

To respond to the more cheerful part of this post -- I hope that you have a lovely housewarming party! Nice that you have so many people to invite.

At 12:38 AM, Blogger Ancrene Wiseass said...

I was in Ireland and heard it over the radio in a shop. I was in such denial that I actually thought what I was hearing was a movie trailer for the first two or three minutes.

Once I realized, I stumbled out the door and into a pub with a television in time to see repeat footage of what had just happened.

I went on a scheduled tour to Newgrange the next day and cried when our guide turned out the lights to talk about ancient rituals honoring the dead and ancient people waiting for the return of light and hope.

It was a bizarre week: I was stranded in a country that wasn't my own with almost no money, wondering whether WWIII had just broken out, whether I'd ever see my friends and family again.

At 12:22 PM, Blogger medieval woman said...

Thanks for sharing where you were - that must have been terrifying to be not only so close, Flavia, but also so far away, AW.

What Now - welcome! We did have a great time, although I was hurting a bit yesterday!


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