where were you?

Dripping from the shower, I swore as the phone rang. I was running late, but I had to answer in case my mom's flight was delayed. Ten seconds later my mom was telling me that she doubted she would come that day and that just to turn on the TV and that she couldn't talk anymore because there was a huge line of people waiting to make phone calls. She hung up on me before I could barely get a word out.

Miffed, I turned on the tv in time for my two-year-old son and me to watch the second tower fall, leaving even the silence of the newscasters in its wake. It would be an hour before I thought to dress. My son wandered away on his own to play in his room, where his toy airplanes crashed into his Little People Barn for days afterward.

My neighbor and I went outside to hang our flags at the same time, and we waved without speaking. What was there to say? Mine had a black ribbon hanging from the top, the same one it has today.

This morning I explained to my son what had happened because I knew he'd be hearing about it in school. I told him he saw the second tower fall, live, on the tv. I told him I was glad he didn't remember it. I told him how he played with his airplanes. I told him about the people who died and the heroes who saved lives on Flight 93. Thank God he didn't ask me why.

The stupidest thing I ever heard anyone say about 9/11 is that the tragedy and grief really belongs only to New Yorkers. The Pentagon and Flight 93 notwithstanding, I rarely speak to anyone who does not know someone who died. My husband lost two coworkers. My mother has a friend who watched the first plane fly over the city from her apartment as she fed her baby. I have a friend whose father's business was devestated by the attacks because he lost his own building due to proximity to the Towers. I hardly needed to know these people to grieve, though I was able to hold my tears until I saw people cheer on the streets in the Middle East. I cried then because as ignorant as they were, they do not have a patent on such stupidity.

Though I'm a shitty poet, on 12 September 1991 I wrote this. I'll put it up here because bad or good, it was from the heart:


Yesterday we said,

“I am Mother.”
“I am Husband.”
“I am Hindu.”
“I am Conservative.”
“I am Atheist.”
“I am Wealthy.”
“I am Daughter.”
“I am Son.”
“I am Poor.”
“I am Muslim.”
“I am Wife.”
“I am Liberal.”
“I am Sister.”
“I am Christian.”

Today our flags hang low.
Today the birds fly alone.
Today the sky weeps blood,
and ash,
and fear.

Today we say,
“I am American.”

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