9/11, Ten Years Gone, Ten Years Still Here.
Monday September 12th 2011, 8:30 am
Filed under: NYC

(NOTE: for those that don’t know, I lived a few blocks from the World Trade Center on 9/11/01. I wrote about it ten years ago.)

It’s quite a peculiar feeling having a day so ingrained in my memory that I can say where I was, what I was doing, and who was saying what to whom at any given time. It’s almost as if I have a video with more than just picture and sound–with touch, smell, thought, time, emotions and everything else we use to experience reality–in my mind’s library. Although I am able to watch that video anytime, it’s not something I care to watch often. It’s the only such video of its kind in my mind’s library, because there has only ever been one day that so completely burned itself into my memory: September 11, 2001. That day, I witnessed with my own eyes over 600 people die when the second airplane struck the South Tower, I witnessed with my own eyes countless people jumping to their deaths from the upper floors of the burning buildings, and when the North Tower fell, I witnessed with my own eyes the deaths of over one thousand people in an single moment.

Every September 11, no matter how comforted or distracted or engaged I may be, the video starts, and it cannot be stopped until shown in its entirety. No matter what I’m doing outwardly, no matter the activity or the conversation, on some level, I am reliving September 11, 2001 inside. If you ask what I’m hearing, it’s the cacophonous mix of hundreds of every kind of first responder siren imaginable. If you ask what I’m smelling, it’s like a mix of gasoline and hot tar, but I’m not quite sure because I’m breathing in the ashes of office supplies, building parts, and human beings. If you ask what I’m seeing, it’s tall, billowing streams of smoke into a perfect blue sky. But when I look down, all I see is paper. Papers with pie charts, papers for sales pitches, paper from books, lined paper with freshly scribbled incomplete notes, and charred photographs of families, all engulfed in darkness, the sun nowhere to be seen.

Every year since 9/11, I’ve had trouble figuring out the best way for me to observe its anniversary. I’ve rarely been certain about what I’m going to do, despite my best efforts. I’ve spent some anniversaries talking to lots of people who weren’t there about what it was like in downtown New York that day. I’ve written about 9/11 and how far (or not) we’ve come. I’ve been pulled away to things totally unrelated. Don’t get me wrong, I think people should do whatever they feel is appropriate on 9/11–if riding a roller coaster makes you feel like you’re taking it to the terrorists, then good for you! Or, if you don’t really mark the day in any special way, that’s okay, too.

Through the years, I’ve found that what I need is some sort of comforting. For the first anniversary, I worked on a play with friends from school, who had all been downtown on 9/11. Most of them found it comforting, but I really struggled. The second anniversary, I went out of town to see a concert with some friends. It was some nice escapism, and kind of a relief to find out that fun still existed. For the next several years, Amy and I stayed in the apartment on the anniversaries of 9/11, not because we were scared and not just because we were sad, but because it was a shared experience for us. We went through that day together, which linked us together in a sort of tragic way. We were never able to convey our experience to other people in a way that made them understand it like we did. It just defied explanation. But we’d gone through it together, so we didn’t have to work at understanding each other. I think I found that to be the most comforting.

Maybe this is a curse, having to relive those terrible things in my head. I don’t know if it is. But even if it is a curse, it’s also a blessing, because I will never forget that day in New York City. I will never forget the horror, certainly, but nor will I forget the bravery, the selflessness, or the sacrifice of so many that day. I am honored to be able to remember 9/11 so vividly for the heroes, the victims, and their families. They should not, and will not ever be forgotten.


3 Comments so far
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Reid, the more of your writing that I see, the more convinced I feel that you are truly one of the most brilliant authors I have met.
I sincerely wish I knew some what to take your observations, keen narrative approach, brilliant humor & touching sentimentality, and show them to the world, so that they might get the recognition they truly deserve.

I hope, as well, that as more years pass, though you will never forget the events you spoke of, that you will keep finding more comforting, however possible, that helps you come to terms with the impact it has had on you.

Also, keep getting better, I want to be able to hang out and work on things with you again. :)

…And furhermore, let’s write a two man show.

Comment by Matt Gallo 09.12.11 @ 8:49 am

What an eloquent post. Thanks for writing it.

“–if riding a roller coaster makes you feel like you’re taking it to the terrorists, then good for you!”

Reid,you are taking it to the terrorists every single day because you inspire lots of people in a variety of different ways. That’s my opinion but it’s also a fact.

Terrorists can never win because in order to attack people and create fear they have to be fearful themselves. Those who cause such terror miss out on a lot in life and miss out on wonderful people like you. You’ve managed to accomplish many amazing things in the 10 years since that day and have been living a very inspiring life whereas those who carried out the attacks obviously couldn’t even live with themselves. So, yeah, you’re definitely winning out over the terrorists, just in case there was ever any doubt. I’m going to step off of my soapbox now. Actually, I’m sliding awkwardly off of said soap box because the darn thing is made out of soap.

Comment by Krista Harris 09.12.11 @ 10:29 pm

Thank you very much, Matt. I take your kind analysis of my writing as high praise. It means a lot. As far as getting well, I’m doing my best, but the Universe keeps throwing new tribulations my way. I’ll get there eventually, and we’ll get that show written, just as soon as the Universe stops picking on me.

As for September 11, it’s amazing to me how much it still affects me. Anytime I see pictures or a video of that day, I break into tears. That day left a scar on my soul, and every time I see those things, it’s like the scar is torn open again. I don’t know that I will ever come to terms with the effect that bearing witness to such carnage had on me. But I won’t stop trying.

Krista, if slipping off soap is your way of taking it to the terrorists, then good for you! Thanks for giving me the win over them! Honestly, I’ve never really thought of “taking it to the terrorists,” myself. They’re gone. I hardly think of them at all, to be honest.

And maybe that’s how I take it to them. For a moment, I saw a pure evil–vile, loathsome hatred of humanity. And then I saw such awesome love, that so few ever get to feel, take its place. Remembering that, telling people about that, that no matter how much darkness there was, the light shone through, that’s how I honor the good. And that’s how I slander the evil.



Comment by Reid 09.14.11 @ 4:56 am

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