Sunday, September 11, 2011
I had to turn it off. Family members are reading the names of their loved ones lost exactly ten years ago this morning. The nation continues to be compelled by this defining moment of our time, as it should be, but I feel the need to resist diving into what seems the somewhat manufactured sentimentality of the moment. Each network has specially designed logos for this week, each news magazine a commemorative cover story - across the board there is a strong encouragement to "remember" - as if what happened could ever be forgotten. Forgive me if this reads as somewhat cynical, but I can't help thinking that the great machine that is our nation's media, economy, war, everything - somehow benefits by the persistent fear of its constituency.
I had been awake only a short time after just a few hours fitful sleep, still reeling from days of endless drug use and little rest. I was watering flowerbeds beside the house on Hollis Street, a block south of Japantown in San Francisco. The bedroom window on the second floor opened, and my boyfriend leaned his head out and shouted down to me, "Hey, come up here. The World Trade Center's not there anymore!" The sun was only just beginning to light up a clear blue sky, and every station on TV was playing footage of the planes flying into the towers over and over.
We had been in the process of moving to an apartment downtown on Sutter Street. In the weeks that followed, I remember sitting on the floor of the empty apartment at dawn, cradling him in my arms as he shook and cried, terrified and convinced that the sounds of early morning garbage trucks were airplanes crashing down the streets of San Francisco. We had both spent the past few years destroying our minds with drugs. The attacks on the towers and the tragedy in New York was calling me home.
I'd been living in California for ten years. Within six months I would be back in New York. I dragged him with me. The country, the city, the two of us, everyone was on high alert. We fought, we lied to each other, cheated, drank excessively, were angry, and were both very unhappy. He didn't stay, he couldn't, I didn't understand it then, but I do now. In a swift clandestine move, he arranged his overnight departure and was gone. He left me in debt, unemployed, unemployable, hurt and confused. I continued to drink and drug for a few more months, spiraling downward to what I've heard described as pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. How obliged I am to that utter humiliation as it gave me the gift of desperation. An acronym that was working in my life when there was nothing else.
In the same way that my life imploded and crashed down, I've been rebuilding at almost the same rate as the site downtown. Wreckage, debris, trauma, grief, illness as a result of the fall - my personal relationship to that day a decade ago stands as a metaphor of my downfall and recovery. Careful and slow rebuilding, brick by brick - each passing day a little more healed - each day a little better.