finally not final

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

     A year ago I woke up earlier. A year ago I’d called in sick to sleep a bit later. When I awoke, I turned on the television just in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center. Then I went into work anyway.

Driving in, I watched the other drivers swerve as they listened to the radio reports from New York rather than watch the road.

The first tower fell during my morning commute.

Today, I didn’t even get up until my alarm clock went off at 9:30 AM. Three weeks into school and I’m already a slacker. Brian was right. The vacation from the 5:00 or 6:00 AM mornings that have dominated my life for the past five years or so is nice, though. Healthy, even.

I turned on the TV just to see whether or not anything had blown up yet. I didn’t expect it to — that’s not the nature of assymmetric warfare. Nonetheless, I had to check.

The TV screen was once again filled with images of smoke, fire, and falling rubble.

Another channel displayed the same scene a year later: the footprint of two large buildings now filled with mourners as the names of the dead were announced.

I let the TV play in the background just in case some breaking news needed my attention while I checked my e-mail and chatted with a friend at UT. The TV people were in the middle of their alphabetical-by-last-name rollcall. This could go on forever, I thought, as I brushed my teeth, applied deodorant, and shaved the morning’s stubble from around my beard.

I changed clothes and put on shoes. I was standing in the room when the names came to an end and the announcers asked “God” to bless the victims and the nation . . . a far cry from the unscripted awe of last year.

How do you cheapen 3,000 deaths?
Or, a better title: How To Cheapen 3,000 Deaths in Under 365 Days, by the U.S.A.

We’ve made the deaths and the event into something abstract — it isn’t something that happened to us . . . it’s now only the impetus for a reaction. We’ve distanced ourselves from it . . . or maybe the vast majority of us have always been distant to it.

I remember that day, as, I’m sure, we all do, well. The adrenaline rush. The excitement. The feeling that said, “Oh fuck! Something’s happening and I’m not sure what or when it will stop, but something real is happening. Fuck, fuck, fuck.” (These were my feelings thousands of miles away from Ground Zero with no one to worry about being in the immediate area.)

Maybe for one brief moment we stirred in our individual slumbers and were alive.

And now it’s passé. The stills and the replays can never recreate those first few hours of that Tuesday morning. The chaos on the scene and the confusion in the hinterlands are not to be experienced in the same way again. Scared, sad, pissed, excited, indifferent . . . we know how that scene ends now. We know the destruction and the death toll. We’ve no idea when our response will end, but the mass of Americans seem to have decided that is a superfluous issue.

As long as it’s marketed well.

. . .

There’s a sort of running joke between myself and a girl, Sarah, from Boston who attends St. Edward’s University with me. Usually whenever I see her she’s either drunk or in our English class where the professor intimidates her into stupidity (a common symptom of Bro. John’s teaching style (I suffer from it, too), it seems, but we both agree that we love him for it). So last night she finally got to see me drunk and, while I wouldn’t say drunkenly stupid, more like myself . . . which may appear stupid to any outside observer (I’m just playing it safe now). “Smart enough to act stupid.”

I was deferential throughout the evening, as I am with girls I don’t have plans on purposely offending. I knew she had homework and studying to do along with a trip to the gym, so I left it up to her to choose our schedule for the night. I had more interest in talking to her one-on-one than seeing Toni Price play anyway. I was intrigued, let us say, from the beginning.

I think I’ve tried to sort out why some people interest us and others don’t so much before in the journal. I know I’ve thought about it a lot before. Anyway, I’ve been drinking wine and will leave this for later exploration. More on Sarah then, too.

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