I dream I am in the upper floors of an urban tower and the floors begin to move. Large squares of flooring rise, separating from the rest of the floor. I am working there and people around me say nothing is wrong. But then I see that it is not the floor that is rising, it is that I am falling. Every one is falling and the building is falling apart all around us.
I fall for what seems forever in the dream, long enough to ask myself questions. What if I land in the ocean on the water, maybe I could survive the fall? But no, I am over the land. Even if I were over the water a fall from this height would make the impact fatal for me, and still looking for a way out, it’s over.
When I wake up, I realize that it is September first. And when it is September again in New York City where I live, that means 9/11 is coming. On 9/12 I’ll begin to remember that I love the fall season. But from now until September 11th, I won’t. I’ll be trapped within the memories of the approaching anniversary of the deaths New Yorkers can’t forget.
We all remember different things, personal things from 9/11, our own view of the faces of death.
On that day I was coming into the city for work like I always did, leaving my children behind at their local school PS 83. In those years I was taking a bus from the Bronx into midtown Manhattan and working as a scientific advisor in a patent law firm. The job didn’t last long but the memories of that day lasted forever.
On mass transit, we couldn’t get out and the driver kept on going toward the disaster. I was trapped heading toward chaos and my daughters were behind me in the Bronx. I felt cold, chilled, like my brain was freezing over wondering if I would ever see them again.
We Try to Understand.
In my novel, American Dream, I write about my confusion on that day, 9/11, through the character Danny, a young father. The bit that he’s a man, and I’m a woman, is the only fictional part of this section of the book.
“He had seen the first plane hit the twin towers. It seemed like a toy plane in a dream at first, and then came the smoke, the silence, the panic. Commuters around him were on their phones and looking up at the smoke pouring out of the building, trying to reach loved ones. People had turned to strangers beside them and said New York City was under attack, they said that it was the first strike in a war. Everyone was terrified.
He had seen the second plane hit. Then the chaos set in and it was all around him. To get out of the sea of people, he tucked himself inside a building and waited. He was pressed up against the wall for maybe an hour. He had known he had to leave, that to stay was foolish, even self-destructive.
When the anxiety had become unbearable, he had gone back outside to the street. He had walked for hours trying get back to the place he stayed. The fast-moving river of bodies packed against one another had carried him along with them in a frantic exodus to the outer boroughs of the city.
Everyone was thinking about family, he was sure, as ash from incinerated buildings, and from the people who had been trapped within them, had drifted down on the crowd and settled on the pale pavement where the masses walked silently, horrified.”
We Pray for Peace.
In my lifetime, I never expected to see and feel human ash hovering above New York City and all around me. This changed the way I saw my world, and it changed the way I was.
When I got back to my neighborhood after walking for hours, my daughters were not home. I found them safe at their after-school baby sitter’s place because school had let them out. They had seen the coverage on TV there, over and over and over. Too many children did. Many people in my neighborhood had to watch that news; they were afraid they had lost family and friends, and many had.