Postcards in the rain

By the

September 6, 2001

The clock ticks twelve. Midnight. Another day ends. Simple. Inevitable. It passed, in many ways, as days have always?the sun rose, brightening the morning, and set in the evening, returning us to darkness. Tuesday was sunny, hot and humid, as D.C. is wont to be, though not as oppressive as yesterday, when it rained for the first time that I can remember?not the cold, clean rain of thunderstorms or late autumn, but a warm, sticky, dirty rain. Pain.

Most of my thoughts Tuesday were senselessly self-reflectant in nature.

Was I callous to have been happy upon hearing that our classes were cancelled? Was I na?ve not to have expected that they would be? Do my classes really matter?

Nothing of much in my small life seemed to matter much today. All my projects, ideas, everything I typically daydream about as I walk through my days?I didn’t think about them at all. I didn’t really think; I just acted. Which is probably why I managed to royally screw up our website at work, and why I sped down to the Pentagon at 10:15 this morning as soon as I saw the smoke, my videocamera in hand, and why I hopped the fence into Arlington National Cemetery and ran half a mile through waist-high thorn bushes only to find myself 150 yards from the smoldering wreckage of our national consciousness.

They say it puts things in perspective. Tragedy. Perspective, if that’s what you call it, feels pretty scary to me. The feeling, when you get out of class and there are people up on the rooftop and smoke a mile high billowing beyond the Rosslyn skyline, and your friend tells you that, yeah, the world trade towers do not exist any more. Do you think of the thousands of people who died? Do you think of them, buried beneath the weight of hundreds of tons of concrete and steel and the far greater weight of the hatred that brought it down upon them? Do you think of their families, of their moms and dads, their golden retriever? I did not.

Two of my friends spent their day trying to give blood. Our hospital turned them away. They say the terrorists chose planes headed for Los Angeles and San Francisco because they were full of fuel for the long cross-country flight. Because jet fuel burns hot. And on TV the engineer said that the airplane crashes, the explosions themselves, didn’t cause the towers to collapse, but the heat from the fires that burned, eventually melted the steel superstructure that held the towers together. The Pentagon is still burning, the flames spreading to parts of the old building not yet refitted with fire-proof doors and walls.

In Manhattan, the people streamed over the Brooklyn Bridge, the skyscrapers behind them collapsing like in countless crappy Hollywood blockbusters?only this time it wasn’t a movie. As they found their ways off the island, many stopped in stores, in bodegas, to buy postcards of the Twin Towers, sick humor in a sick world?a macabre souvenir of the American past.

When I go home for Columbus Day, I will go Greyhound. I will not count the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, but when we pass above the golden fragmites, whirring through the cool night air, I will look for our beloved New York, our America, and I will surely cry. Perhaps, though, it will be raining, obscuring the view?tears from the sky to quench those that toil below.

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