I always predicted I would never write about 9/11 until enough years had passed to keep me from freaking out about it all over again. It seemed ten would be a good number of years, and yet, I still don't think I'll be ready. For all my love of disaster movies (mostly the fictional, apocalyptic kind involving huge explosions and maybe brain eating zombies) I have not yet brought myself to watch any of the number of movies made years ago detailing the events. In 2003, I wound up watching a documentary about the firefighters on PBS and could not finish it. I will probably also never be able to write a poems about it, not only because anything I could say seems so hackneyed and cliche, and SO not important about it from my small vantage point amidst the huge horror, I'm am not even tempted to try. All I can say is I had nightmares for months. The worst were the ones where I walked outside and the city was falling down around me. The best was when I dreamed that the characters on Buffy could save it.(you know, with spells and girly magic, which could surely trump war and violence).
For years before, I had had plane crash dreams, but they took on a particular terribleness that fall. I also had public transportation nightmares that occasionally resulted in getting on and off trains (this was before, and perhaps a little bit why I switched to mostly bus travel the following spring) and once, actually calling in sick to work because of an overwhelming feeling of dread. It was sort of silly in hindsight, but I still sometimes very much believe in dreams that foreshadow something, and sometimes they do (little, unconsequential things...but enough of them to make me give some creedence to them). The worst was a train dream, where I was standing in a car holding on to the pole when a little girl appaeared in front of me and warned me that I would be dead within a year right before a wall of flames swept through the car. Since I'm still here obviously 9 years later, I'm sure it was just my anxieties working overtime (as with most of my dreams.) but it freaked me out and had me spooked for a year. Any time I would get stuck standing on the Red Line, which happens rarely as far north as I am, I would get off and catch the next train. It happened over and over again.
It was almost pathological, but then, in some ways, the feelings I had about it were a little pathological. Perhaps had I lived elsewhere, been elsewhere when it all went down, it wouldn't have been quite as traumatic. On one hand, it was probably the first time I didn't feel safe in my smug little American bubble. It's a little ridiculous that I ever did, given other metropolitain areas that are always under threat of bombings, violence, etc. But it seemed impossible in this great gleaming city (like that other great gleaming city) that there was ever even a threat. And perhaps it was worse that I was just leaving for work when the first footage spread across the news and casually thought flipping off the remote, "hmm..how odd that planes don't accidently crash more often into skyscrapers." By the time I arrived at work, the second plane had hit and everyone knew it wasn't an accident. I was covering the fifth floor AV desk and internet traffic made it impossible to bring up CNN. They sent us home soon after (after hilariously telling us not to panic the students), and I swear there were more people on the sidewalk than I have ever witnessed since, all of those buildings emptying out completely mid-day, everyone sort of stunned and wandering. It was a gorgeous day, much like NYC,and I remember feeling like I was safe in the library, but would be less safe on the Red Line, especially since planes were still rumored to be in the air and the Sears tower sat a mere few blocks away from us. Of course, nothing else happened, not here, but after we emerged from underground, I kept looking back over my shoulder at the skyline from the north side, half expecting it to be in ruins. The rest of the afternoon, I watched the horror unfold, after, of course, calling to assure my mother I was still alive. For awhile I was fascinated by the people's who had been SUPPOSED to be there (either in the buildings or the planes) and were not, the close calls, the near misses. The tiny decisions/uncontrollable circumstances that caused them to stray from their usual or predicted path. It caused me to dwell and dissect my own paths on a regular basis, my own variations from routine.
I still catch myself doing this. Say if I take the train today, will it derail? or was my impulse to take the train saving me from a bus accident? If I cross the street on one side or the other will I be hit by a car? What if I cross the street and THEN am hit by a car? Which impulse should I follow? Which decision will entail my certain doom? When my head gets like this, it's difficult to make any decisions at all. While my disaster dreams have lessened over the years, and usually are just plain weird and much less traumatic, I also don't watch planes in the sky for fear they will a) explode or b) crash into a building. And you still probably won't get me on one, at least not alone. 80's and 90's movie scenes involving the towers still jolt me, and even this morning, I was a little stunned by seeing the images in memorial when I brought up the Yahoo homepage which bought the general wave of unsettledness back again. A few years ago I stopped watching the news. It was a combination of war/violence overkills, also how one morning, five stories in a row were about horrible things (kidnappings, abuse, rapes, murders) that happened to women and girls. I sort of shut down and stopped paying attention. Another dead girl. Another dead soldier. I can't deal with it on a daily basis and still function. All very ironic coming from the person who regularly indulges in slasher film marathons and zombie gorefests, all of which are much more palatable than the news on a daily basis...I know that the actors, whatever happens will all take off their costumes and makeup and go on to their next part...