Friday, September 08, 2006

John Scalzi's Weekend Assignment #128: 9/11, Five Years On

If tears could build a stairway
And memories a lane,
I'd walk right up to Heaven
And bring you home again


Weekend Assignment #128: Share your thoughts about 9/11. You can remember back on what you were doing on the day or give some thoughts to how we think about it today. Thoughts personal, political, or philosophical are all up for consideration. Tell us all what you think about when you think about September 11, 2001.

-John Scalzi (By The Way)

Where to begin. Let's start on the evening of, September 12, 2001. Alan and I had moved into our little cottage in the hills, just four months earlier, and we hadn't done much unpacking during those summer months. I did some, but not a lot, you see during that time, and for a couple years after that, I was in a pretty deep depressive state. So deep in fact, that I was, at that time, afflicted with Anhedonia. I was numb to most emotion, not just joy and happiness, I was numb to all emotion. I would react normally, on cue, which was my way of trying to make the world think that I was ok, but those closest to me knew that there was very little actual feelings, or emotions going on behind my eyes behind my eyes.

Alan, in an attempt to help in my recovery, encouraged me to watch a silly "reality" program with him, that aired from July-September of 2001, Fox's "Murder In Small Town X." It was basically a whodunit, with a case of "investigators,' attempting to solve the fictional murder of a family who lived in a mythical town in Maine. So, every week we watched the show, and then discussed the clues, and shared with each other who we thought might be the most likely suspect of the townsfolk. I watched week after week, took in every clue, debated vigorously with Alan about motives...and felt absolutely indifferent, so a puzzle that I would have considered a guilty pleasure just a couple years earlier.

The show concluded it's run on Tuesday, September 4th, 2001. Right until the last show, we debated what it's eventual outcome might be. The winner was a surprise to both of us, but the show did conclude with a satisfactory ending. On Monday, September 10, Alan and I sat down to dinner, and began discussing the show, and mused a bit about what the winner might be doing at that very moment. We ate a little later then normal that night, so after dinner, Alan went to bed, and I sat up for a while, watching TV Land. We had just a pleasant evening, and while my overall condition had not changed, I felt a strange kind of peace, not the same as numb, but for once, all the people, places, and events that had led to my depression, were not on my mind. I had stopped ruminating, and what was left was, a whisper quiet silence, except for TV Land and those fabulous old shows that have seen me through so much. TV can be an amazing comfort.

I went to bed, with a rerun of "I Love Lucy," on the TV in the bedroom, playing very quiet as to not wake Alan. I slept a gentle sleep that night, no nightmares, no busy dreams, just a deep, body resting sleep. I woke the next morning to the phone ringing. It was strange, because when I looked at the caller ID, I saw that it was Alan calling from work. I kind of smiled, because I thought he was calling to tell me he forgot the grocery list, but of course, he wasn't

His first words were, "Carly, are you ok?" LOL. "Yes Alan, I am fine, why?" "Haven't you heard?" He said with his voice so serious and sad. At that point I looked around the room. Everything was in place, there hadn't been an earthquake, the sky outside the window was the most vivid shade of blue I had ever seen it, and Elvis was sleeping at the end of the bed, cuddled up to his favorite bear. "Heard what Alan?" After a moment he said..."America is under attack...the World Trade Center is gone." It was the stupidest thing I had ever heard. "Gone, what the hell are you talking about? Where did it go?" "Carly, it's a terrorist strike...the Pentagon has been hit." At that point I looked over at the TV, and saw that the same episode of I Love Lucy that had been playing when I went to bed, was on again. The same episode. The digital cable box, which sat directly beneath it, had a little red dot lit. "What is that?" I thought to myself. "Carly, turn on the TV and stay home until I get there." And our conversation was over.

By the time I heard of what had happened that day, the towers had already fallen, the Pentagon had already been struck, and United Airlines, Flight 93, had already crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania. I sat down in a chair, and watched those buildings fall over and over that day. I watched my local FOX affiliate KTVU, interview the heartbroken wife of Flight 93 passenger, Tom Burnett, talk to the media from her San Ramon, California home. San Ramon is in the East Bay, where I live, she was in some ways, a neighbor. The world had suddenly gotten a lot smaller that day. After a little while I got up from my chair, to open the back door. I felt like I needed to see the back yard. I almost immediately looked up into the morning sky. It was a blue...but it was the most amazing was a blue that I haven't seen since. Later I found out that, there hadn't been a single cloud over the U.S. that day. It was perfection of late summer, it was the day we all dream of. The air was clear, the sky blue, and there was an early autumn crispness to the air.

I think I looked at the sky forever. I just stood there...looking up into all that blue. To be truthful, I don't know exactly how long I stood there. I noticed at one point, that there were no sounds at all. No children playing outside, no dogs barking, and the oddest thing of all...I didn't see or hear a single bird in the sky. It was the loudest silence. All at once, I heard the front door open, Alan was home. Together we watched the coverage on the TV for most the rest of the day. We didn't talk much, if at all. I was watching the most horrific events on TV, and was still feeling nothing. Intellectually, I understood it's devastation, and the loss, and the incredible pain, but I felt nothing. The first real sound I heard that day, was the Ethereal Musician, at about sunset, he broke the silence up here in the hills, by playing "America," on his saxophone. Except for his tune, there didn't seem to be any sound at all. Still...I felt nothing.

A couple years later, in 2003, I emerged from the hold Anhedonia had on me. All emotion came pouring back almost as quickly as they had left me a few years before. Since that time, I have formed some pretty strong opinions about 9/11 and what led America to that point, most of you who read my blog on a regular basis already know how I feel, so I won't go into that right now. However, since John said we could take the opportunity to share our thoughts be it "personal, political, and philosophical," I think I will speak about a few things that are on my mind right now.


America is still under attack, and it frustrates me that in the five years since the September 11, 2001 attacks, we have not captured Osama Bin Laden. It is an outrage, and I hold the Bush administration directly responsible for the fact that he has not yet been brought to justice. But I don't just hold them responsible, because I also hold every single member of the senate responsible as well. More pressure needs to be placed on the administration to do it's job and find Bin Laden. I wish members of the media, with the exception of the brilliant Helen Thomas, would do their job, and ask tougher questions...and keep asking...loudly...until we get some real answers and not irrational made up answers we are been given now. Also, I think we should have some proper memorials and permanent tributes in place by now at the World Trade Center grounds, Shanksville Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. It's shameful that our government has done so little, to honor those brave individuals of that day.

Bottom Dwellers...
(Internet Hoaxes and Urban Legends of 9/11)

Before the sunset on Tuesday, September 11th, 2001, the first hoaxes and incidents of grifting had already occurred before the sun set over New York City. There is an Internet urban legend making the rounds, which has been making the rounds since 2001. The subject line says, "Remember This." It is a lie regarding the questioning of Oliver North, during the Iran/Conta hearings, by then Senator, Al Gore. In the email FWD, is information about how Oliver North tried to tell Al Gore that he had grave concerns about Osama Bin Laden, and that he considered him a great terrorist threat to his family. Sigh.

I can't believe that someone, who lived through the events of 9/11 alongside all of us, would have created such a lie, let alone, circulate it to well meaning people who feel inclined to pass it along to those they care about, out of concern. At best this is a practical joke, at worst it is liable. I received a copy of this email today, and I have to say, it made me a little angry. Not at the person who sent it to me, but at the original bottom dweller who apparently has no grasp of what took place that day...the lives lost...the devastation done to everyone, and the ensuing distrust that has taken place. We are coming up on the fifth anniverary of 9/11, and if you are reading this, then you have a computer. Please, don't take things like the information in that email for granted as being the truth, just because a friend or someone you know hits the FWD. You can check things like this out, and a good place to start is, which is an excellent resource for determining if you have been the victim of an Internet hoax or urban legend. To read about the particular email I received, click on the link here, or see the link below.

Some Personal Thoughts...

I have been given a second chance, I think by God, to live a full life. Complete with emotion and creativity, and yes...all the feelings and passion of two lifetimes. I love as much as I can, and as fully as I can. Tonight, as I sit in my office writing this, I grieve for the losses America endured on 9/11 and in the days after. The war in Iraq is a passionate point with me, and I hate the thought of it. I hate that we have suffered the additional loss of life we have, because of some misguided, at best, ideology on the part of the Bush Administration. It was an irrational thought process which plunged us into this illegal and immoral war. And we have wasted time, resources, money, and worse of in order to satisfy the ambitions of our leaders. We are NO safer then we were on the night of September 10th, 2001, but in fact, we are in some ways all whole lot worse off. We are hated around the world because of the policies and actions of our government and actions by certain members of our military abroad, and personally we have never had fewer civil rights in America then we do right now.

Keep in mind, we all have the power to enact change in this country. Please, do your research, and vote in the upcoming mid-term elections. Make your voice count, and then hold your politicians responsible. Write letters, write factual emails, and write in your blog!We can be a positive part of history, or we can sit around and look for others to do our work for us. I don't know about you...but I am making my life work for me...and I am working for a positive change. I am living my life, because the sad fact is...a perfect day, a perfect morning, carries no guarantee that it will end the same way it began.

NOTE: Ironically, Alan and I learned that the winner of the Fox network reality show, "Murder In Small Tow X," was Angel Juarbe Jr. He was killed on the morning of September 11th, 2001 in the collapse of the World Trade Center, just one week after the last episode of the series aired. He was a firefighter for the New York City Fire department.

"Blue Skies"
Berkeley, California
September 6th, 2006


Time Magazine 9/11 Pictorial Essays

The 2996 Project

Tom Burnett Family Foundation

Twin Towers Orphan Fund

Build The Memorial: The World Trade Center Memorial Fund

The American Red Cross


Kelly said...

another wonderful entry, geesh, i don't know where you come up with them sometimes!

Suzanne R said...

Very thought-provoking, Carly. I, too, wasn't aware of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon until after they had happened, being in the Pacific time zone and not turning my TV on early. I don't realize sometimes how that day affected me on an underlying, general basis until I become aware some mornings that I am turning my TV on early and with a sense of dread, afraid that a similar attack has taken place. So far, thank God, that hasn't happened.