Monday, September 11, 2006

A Beautiful Day

It was a beautiful day. The sky was a deep blue, with no clouds to water down the brilliant color. The weather was somewhere between warm and crisp - past summer's heat, but not chilly enough to require a sweater. You couldn't ask for a finer day.

I had gone to work and was glazing a client's master bath, about eighteen feet up on a scaffold. I was concentrating on the decorative painting and listening to my discman. All of a sudden my cell phone rang, which was unusual. My children were in high school; my husband was at work in the city. It was my daughter screaming "Where's daddy, where's daddy?" I was confused and told her he was in the city. She kept screaming at me "I know, but WHERE in the city?" I told her he was probably at corporate, and I asked her to calm down and tell me what was going on. She told me about the WTC getting "bombed" - details were still sketchy. She calmed down a little when I told her that her father was uptown and I told her I would try to call him. I was on my hands and knees on the scaffold, shaking and not trusting myself to be able to climb down. I knew when he went in for a corporate meeting they frequently had off-site breakfasts or presentations. He could be anywhere. No luck reaching him. Then my daughter called again and told me about the Pentagon. I couldn’t begin to understand what was happening.

My client came in from her tennis lesson and told me New York City had been attacked. She turned on the TV, but I was too frantic trying to reach my husband to watch. My husband's secretary finally called - they had been able to get a call out from corporate to my husband's office and she in turn was calling families to let us know our loved ones were okay.

My first instinct was to get my children and keep them safe at home. But was home safe anymore? I decided the distraction of being in class and with their friends was better than watching the horror on TV. I went back to work, so that I wouldn’t have to think; art has that power, to absorb one’s being.

When I finally got home and turned on the TV, my brain couldn’t take it all in. The wound in this city I was born and raised in, my city - where everything between Wall Street and Ft. Tryon Park had been part of my playground growing up. I could only watch the news for short bits at a time. We went to a special church service. We came home and watched again, all the while not believing, not understanding. I can still feel the love and community of that day – also the sorrow, grief and helplessness. For months after, the NY Times printed daily pages with a small picture and bio of each of the victims. I read every single one and said a silent prayer for each of them and their families. How could I not?

In the years to follow, whenever there was an especially spectacular fall day, I could never figure out why a chill would suddenly run through me. In 2004, I finally realized it was because of the similarity to that beautiful day, 9/11/01. I thought it was just me, that I was being freakishly sensitive. But no, after speaking to many other New Yorkers, I find it is a too-common eerie feeling.

I’m not a poet or a writer. I’m just a New Yorker. I am so very proud of my city, all it has overcome, how life and living continues despite the immense shadow of those towers that no longer exist. I can’t forget the enormous evil, the murder of all those poor souls. To echo the bumper stickers I still see every day, “I will never forget.” 9/11 is never very far from my consciousness, or any New Yorker's.

Today was another beautiful and perfect fall day. But here it is, five years later, and the wound is still as raw as if it happened yesterday. We lost 2,948 people - people like you and me - on 9/11. We have lost another 2,657 service men and women in Iraq since then. When does it end?


Velvet Sacks said...

Sunflower, I beg to differ with you: you ARE a writer. This is as beautiful and moving a remembrance as I've ever read about what it was like to be in New York on that fateful day. I knew you were "up north," but didn't know until today that you're in the City. God bless you and all the others who experienced this tragedy close up. And thank you SO MUCH for venturing out to tell us about it.

Sunflower Optimism said...

Dear Velvet, I humbly thank you for your overly generous praise and for your kindness in mentioning me on your blog.

I could never do the day justice, capture what I still feel in my heart, my bones. I currently live about an hour from the city on Long Island; my husband has since been transferred to the city and commutes daily. Not a day goes by that I don't think of 9/11. I imagine the natives of NOLA must feel the same way about their city, especially since Katrina.

postlady said...

I have to agree with Velvet, you are a great writer. I had goose bumps just reading your blobs. I could feel your daughter's terror. I cried just reading about what you all went through while trying to find your husband and did not relax until I read that you had learned he was ok.
That you for a great remembrance of this day. Please keep writing. I will try to also.

Sunflower Optimism said...

Thank you, Postlady. I can see kindness and generosity run in your family - both you and Velvet have been wonderfully encouraging.

Yes, let's both try to keep writing!