9/11 – Sixteen Years On

The 9/11 anniversary for me will always mark the end of my international innocence. When flight and travel ceased to be my chief amusement and entertainment, and became a weapon of war. When the hatred between peoples became clear. When my little worldview was, in a moment, revealed for the naivete that it was.

No caption necessary.

I lived in Seattle then, in Wallingford. I heard the news on NPR on my clock radio alarm (remember those?) and thought it was a hoax, like War of the Worlds. I dressed for work and went down to our basement living room to watch in disbelief as the second tower fell.

Flights were grounded and the normal landing patterns traced over Lake Washington to the north of Seatac ceased. Everything seemed numb and quiet. I couldn’t eat or think for days. I sobbed to my therapist about smelling building smoke and tasting fear each night in my dreams. I was flooded by imaginative empathy. I moved like a robot through my new job for weeks, taking on a monumental and horrible project just to keep going. They approved of my initiative and thought I was an unbelievably hard worker.

I was wretched over it all. I didn’t know how anything would ever work again in my life. Up until then, things had managed to hang together for me based on a gestalt formula of luck, street smarts, independence, and magic. But 9/11 seemed to scrape everything back to bedrock and made me start from scratch.

I’m glad my children were not alive then to see it, or me in that state.

I did next fly again six months to the day on 3/11, fearful of a redux, although that date too became the Spanish 9/11 three years later. In Seatac, I bought some courage in a bar in the form of two huge draft beers and was amused and distracted by a young and fairly wasted oil worker from Alaska. I flew home to see my parents that trip.

Such a time it was. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully sort out my feelings from it.

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