September 11.

by Marinka on September 11, 2010

This is a repost from last September 11th, and from the year before that. I was thinking how that day and its aftermath defined my generation, and how when I was in high school in the 1980s, we had complained bitterly that there was nothing to define us! Nothing! We were too late for the Kennedy Assassination and the attempt on Reagan’s life a few years later, when we were in college, was a non-definiting generational snooze. What would it be? John Lennon’s death? The Challenger? 9/11 certainly solved that problem.

It is surreal to think that it has been nearly a decade since the biggest terrorist attack on American soil. During Fleet Week in NYC this spring, someone tweeted that some of the sailors that we saw on the streets were ten years old in September 2001. I think about the children they were, without knowing them, of course–did they hear about the attacks on TV, from their friends, did their parents try to shield them with a fictionalized account?

I can’t pretend to be profound. September 11th was a terrible loss of life. Today, like every other day of the year, I remember it.

I don’t wear an American flag pin on 9/11 and I’m not putting a 9/11 memorial on my Twitter avatar because there is not a day that goes by that I do not think about what happened on that day. And I know that I will never forget what downtown Manhattan smelled like on that day and for many, many days after in September.

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

9/11.

9/11 who?

Hey, you said that you’d never forget.

Yeah, I know.

I will never forget September 10th. It would have been an ordinary day, in the way that the best days are, except that Meryl Streep held the door for me at a local furniture store, because I was pushing a stroller. She was wearing a baseball cap, but please. I’d spot Meryl from space. I thanked her and she nodded, not making eye contact. I remember thinking that I could die happy now.

The other thing that I remember that day is that I went to an overpriced paper store and ordered personalized stationary for my three year old daughter. I often think back to that. Did I really have money to burn? Did I realize that my three year old was not a big writer? Was I just that out of my fucking mind bored with my maternity leave that I had nothing better to do?

I wanted to write about 9/11 on a day that had nothing to do with 9/11 because I cannot stand the media coverage on that day, but also because I think about 9/11 every day. A few years ago I went to see a mental health professional in the hopes of getting magic pills that would alleviate my anxiety and make me a better person. When I told the therapist that I thought about September 11th every day, several times a day, he said, “I find that hard to believe.” Apparently he was of the “Oh no, you didn’t” school of psychotherapy and I didn’t have the energy to deal with him. Of course he was all the way on the Upper West Side, in psychoanalytic mecca and I was living downtown, a mile from Ground Zero. It would take a better, and less kind, writer than I am to convey the smells of 9/11. It lingered for weeks.

On the morning of September 11th, I was taking my three year old daughter to school. My infant son was at home with my mother. My daughter was on the cusp of being diagnosed with speech delay and I clung to her words whenever she spoke. I was delighted when she said “samolyet”, or “airplane” in Russian. It’s hard to believe now, but it wasn’t until months later that I’d realized that she was startled by the roar of the first plane as we’d crossed the street and she looked up to see it over our heads, heading to the Towers. I had not bothered to look up, because to me, it was just the noise of the city and I was more concerned with getting my daughter across the street safely. Amazing the things that mothers miss sometimes.

When I finally realized what her “samolyet” referred to, I could not believe that a moment that was so every day for me was a death sentence to the people immediately above me, who surely must have known what was happening. I think about that a lot–what must it have been like for them, seeing New York City so close, seeing people going through their morning commutes, all the while knowing that they were going to die. It is unimaginable, nothing good can come from thinking about it, and yet I don’t think that I will ever stop.

That’s my 9/11 connection. I will never forget September 11th, but I will also always remember the day before.

One year ago ...

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Miss Welcome September 11, 2010 at 3:05 am

This is beautiful and poignant.

I was in Africa with my husband, but we had left NYC behind to go with a friend subletting our apartment. We had to go to a local caf√© to watch because we didn’t have tv or radio. We spent so much money trying to find out if our many friends who lived and worked in the WTC survived. They all had.

I wasn’t there. I missed the smell the weeks after 9/11 – still I have a pessimistic, rather somber bent of mind. But what I always think about on that day are all the miracles that occurred as well. Many stories were televised afterwards, but on a personal level, there was a girl from our church in the 2nd tower. She had a panic attack when they told her everything was fine and she should go back up. She got to the 40th floor and was frozen in fear. Her co-workers laughed at her as they got into the elevator to go up the rest of the way. And then, of course, the second plane hit. She was too frozen to move, to escape, but an “angel” (in the form of a man) carried her down all 40 flights of stairs, set her down at the bottom and walked away. She never saw him again.

I focus on the miracles.

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Keyona
Twitter:
September 11, 2010 at 6:36 am

I still love this post. I still think about this tragedy ALL the time. Bless those families….

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Annie Coppock September 11, 2010 at 7:10 am

I watched 911 from the first second of tv coverage from my bedroom in Arkansas. I’m sitting in the exact same spot right now. I saw the second plane coming. But it was my Internet penpal whose experiences on that day personalized 911 for me. That was you! I wish our simultaneous pregnanies were the only thing we went through together but I am grateful to you for the zoom lens you provided me on this harrowing historical event.

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Annie Coppock September 11, 2010 at 7:10 am

I watched 911 from the first second of tv coverage from my bedroom in Arkansas. I’m sitting in the exact same spot right now. I saw the second plane coming. But it was my Internet penpal whose experiences on that day personalized 911 for me. That was you! I wish our simultaneous pregnanies were the only thing we went through together but I am grateful to you for the zoom lens you provided me on this harrowing historical event.

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peajaye
Twitter:
September 11, 2010 at 8:11 am

i don’t know whether to say thank-you or f**k-you for making me cry this morning. i’ve reread your original post a few times over the years, but your intro to it this year is really unforgivable. just when i was able to turn my head from the sadness and pretend to forget how horrible people can be, you pivot my head right back and force me to look at the wreckage. my heart is heavy. i now need to go out and buy myself a bauble so the terrorists don’t win.

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Miss Britt
Twitter:
September 11, 2010 at 8:14 am

I actually remember your story of the day before, of Meryl Streep holding the door for you, and hadn’t remembered about your daughter and the plane.

I don’t know what words are appropriate right now, but I’m sending you love right at this moment. I hope you feel at least a tiny bit of it.

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Cheryl
Twitter:
September 11, 2010 at 8:34 am

I don’t wear anything patriotic either. I live near the coast in NE where there’s a nuclear sub base and where there was an AF base. We were an area under heavy alert. Each time a plane takes off from the now Air National Guard field, I cringe. I’ll never forget the fear. I wish I could remember the day before. That day got lost as did so many thereafter.

I finally found a therapist who’s been treating me for PTSD. Some of that came from 9/11. I wish you well.

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GrandeMocha
Twitter:
September 11, 2010 at 9:41 am

Sniff

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Whitney
Twitter:
September 11, 2010 at 9:56 am

I remember September 9. The last time I sat in an airport with my family at the gate waiting for me to board my plane.

I teach kids dance, and I realized this week that most of my students have never lived in a pre-9/11 world. They don’t know anything different. It made me so sad.

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Awesome dude September 11, 2010 at 10:00 am

Should we forget?? Will we forget????
The day was exactly as it is today, one can not ask for better clarity and visibility.
Did work well for anyone I know.
There will always be enemies.
We should be grateful that they defined themselves on that day, and whether they build a mosque or 10 000 mosques it will not make any difference.

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Kiki September 11, 2010 at 10:02 am

wow. that moment with your daughter…i can’t believe it. my palms are sweaty right now. thank you for sharing your words. on 9/10 i was working at the Gap. on 9/11 i was working at the Gap again, folding jeans, when one of the guys came running from the stock room, shouting that a plane had just flown into one of the twin towers. the rest of the day was a blur of phone calls to friends in NYC, tv coverage, and tears. i will never forget. take care, Marinka.

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Maravonda September 11, 2010 at 10:12 am

What I always wonder is “How can we NOT think of it every day?”

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anymommy September 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I’ve read your original post many times as well. I’m remembering with you, today. I’m remembering through you and so many others.

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Miss Welcome September 11, 2010 at 12:53 pm

By the way, I thought of you because of this and because of your earlier post about the twin towers advertisement (that was apparently french) because this morning there was a small parade in my town (in France) consisting of some french firetrucks and … I couldn’t believe my eyes (where did they GET it?) … a NY fire department truck in memory of Sept 11.

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traci September 11, 2010 at 1:02 pm

It was one thing to watch 9/11 from Houston Texas. It was another to call my dad who lived and worked in DC to make sure he was okay. But moving here, I can see that it is yet an entirely different story. Because here, the wounds never scab over. It is basically impossible to not live here and not have a profound connection to it.

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Pgoodness
Twitter:
September 11, 2010 at 1:12 pm

I was at work and got as much as I could from the Internet. Then I went home at lunch to watch it on tv. I live 15 mins from DTW, and by far the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen was the utter lack of airplanes in the sky as the day progressed. When, after hours of empty sky military planes flew over, I was certain it wasn’t over.

Your daughter pointing out that plane put an instant lump in my throat. And the therapist who didn’t believe you? Well, I do. Because I think of that day, of those moments and the tremendous losses regularly.

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mosey September 11, 2010 at 1:35 pm

I wasn’t officially yet an American citizen on 9/11 but I mark that day as when I became one anyway. I remember being woken up by a call saying something like “your country is under attack” and being completely confused why anyone would be attacking Canada. Thanks for sharing this post for those of us who missed it the first time around.

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annie September 11, 2010 at 2:10 pm

I remember turning the TV from Bear in a Big Blue House in middle America just in time to see the 2nd plane hit. I also remember keeping my legs crossed (it was my due date) so my youngest wouldn’t be born on such a terrible day. And I remember thinking of all of those I knew on the east coast. I still think of it, and of you, today! Take care my dear!

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kcinnova September 11, 2010 at 2:27 pm

I remember September 9th, the day we celebrated my son’s 9th birthday. I will be grateful for events of September 9th for several reasons: first, family friends who gave us use of their backyard pool so he could have a swim party, and second, that we celebrated his birthday 2 days early.
Two days later, on his actual birthday, our eyes and ears were filled with sights and sounds that no child should have to see and hear. And even today, people say “Oh, I’m sorry” when they find out the date of his birth.

(here via Suburban Correspondent)

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alexandra
Twitter:
September 11, 2010 at 10:41 pm

This post gave me the chills the first time it was posted, and again today.

We were at a memorial service tonight, I prayed that I would never forget.

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hokgardner
Twitter:
September 11, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Touching post. Thank you for sharing.

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dusty earth mother September 11, 2010 at 11:18 pm

My husband was in Building 7 and he had forgotten to recharge his cell phone the night before, so I got one call from him telling me what had happened. And then his cell conked out and I spent the day imagining the unimaginable. My story had a happy ending, but so many had the unimaginable actually happen.

Your story brought me to tears. Thank you for always remembering, Marinka. It’s the very, very least we can do.

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Rosemary September 12, 2010 at 12:14 am

I was on a bus, on my commute from NJ through the Lincoln Tunnel. We looked up and saw the first tower burning, and the plane slam into the second. I was four months pregnant with my daughter, trying to get to my job on Wall Street. I never made it downtown. After a terrifying tunnel ride, they evacuated the Port Authority. I found a former colleague on the street, and she took me in for the day. We watched everything unfold on TV, both of us trying desperately to get home to our kids in NJ. My heart ached for my friends at the office, for their families, for the people I’d worked with on an event at Windows on the World and who could not have made it out of the building, for the neighbors and friends who never came home. But you’re right, what you remember, what brings it all back, the terror and the tragedy and the terrible loss, is that smell. When Wall Street reopened and I came back to work, that smell was just there, always there. I don’t remember when it went away. It seemed like it was there forever.

You try not to think about it. But it’s always inside you. Always.

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Jeanne September 12, 2010 at 7:41 am

You are a kind writer.

And a one of a kind writer.

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ann's rants
Twitter:
September 12, 2010 at 8:56 pm

I love this post Marinka. I love the details about Meryl, and especially the stationary.

I CANNOT believe the response of that therapist.

6 was a baby when Katrina happened and it brought me to the darkest place. I had intense day-mares about motherhood during the holocaust. Early motherhood is THE MOST vulnerable of times–especially considering any kind of trauma.

As a child I feared for my personal safety. Then I married and felt terrified for Husbands. But once the kids come it brings it to an entirely different stratosphere of fear–especially when they are 0-3.

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Holly September 12, 2010 at 10:47 pm

I will also never forget that terrible stench in the air that lasted for days and how the smoke lingered in the air. How I watched the devastating images on television and cried my eyes out. How I felt when I found out that my office mate, Ginger, lost her sister and how I felt when a former colleague lost her fireman husband in the attacks. How several years my beloved friend and first crush, Daniel Pearl, became another victim of terror. On 9/11, all of our lives changed forever and I shall never forget.

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Issa
Twitter:
September 13, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Airplane in Russian. Sigh. I will never forget this friend. Really.

I can’t even imagine being there. I know how profoundly it affected my life and I lived 3000 miles away. I remember watching TV that morning. Watching the second plane hit. Rubbing my belly with my baby girl inside, wondering what life, what world I was about to bring her into.

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The Flying Chalupa
Twitter:
September 14, 2010 at 1:02 am

Such a different 9/11 post. Beautiful and heartbreaking. I was there too. And my way of coping has been to push it as far back into my subconscious as possible. Trying to never think about it. Ever. This year, however, I saw that documentary (110 minutes that changed the world – or something) and it brought it all back. No narration. Just footage of what ordinary people saw and said. How good it felt to remember again. And how important. Maybe next year, I’ll even be able to write about it.

But I understand how it’s possible to think about it every day. Yes, I do.

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Lorette Lavine
Twitter:
January 4, 2011 at 12:05 am

I understand how you must feel. Our lives did change forever. I visited Ground Zero in January 2002 and the air burned my throat afterwards but the sight burned my heart. I will never forget!

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