Some memories get lodged permanently in a way that play on repeat, unexpected, at surprising moments. For me this is one:
I step out of the subway station at Union Square NY at the exit that leads onto Broadway and 17th Street.
I have a RIO500 player and I am listening to Blondie.
It is hotter than usual (an Indian Summer).
I instinctually look downtown to orient myself, looking for the twin towers.
I notice that everyone is looking downtown.
There is a plane and it is very close to the buildings.
It is so close that it is inside of them.
It is a strange moment of suspension where I feel I’ve stepped out of my body. I talk to a stranger, or several, and we ask each other ‘what just happened?’
It is a plane and it hit the towers.
I run into my office, which is just on the corner of 17th and Broadway and I turn on the television.
I see, repeated, replayed, what I’ve just seen.
I am watching CNN (I think) and I am confused by what I see.
Time suspends, hangs, and then, behind the head of the newscaster I see another plane. I say, “this wasn’t an accident” a few seconds before the second plane hits the tower.
I try to call Aaron, my boyfriend, at his school. There is no answer.
I am watching the news. I do not think this will end well. They say the buildings are built to withstand a catastrophe. They will be damaged but they will survive.
The next hour (roughly) is like molasses.
One of the towers starts to crumple.
I am running in the street.
I am running downtown for some reason. I am running to HERE Arts Centre where my friends are to see if they are okay.
People are running towards me covered in white, dust.
Someone shouts ‘there is a white van. run’ and everyone in the street takes off in a sprint in a million directions.
I am having a panic attack so I stop running. I take something and I turn around.
What am I doing?
I try to call Aaron. My phone won’t work. The cell towers were on the tops of the buildings.
And then, I turn around and run the other direction.
I run to the school where Aaron works.
He is running towards me.
I don’t know how but we find each other.
Everyone is running.
There are fighter jets everywhere.
We are ducking for cover. We are running into buildings.
We are hot. It is an Indian Summer.
We walk. We slow down and walk (the subways are closed).
We walk over the Williamsburg bridge towards home.
There are people handing out water. Hassidic Jews are giving water to people as they cross into their neighborhood.
We walk home for the first time ever, from Manhattan to Bushwick.
We walk home.
We turn on the television and discover that already every news program has a set with red, white and blue stars and stripes. There are theme songs to the coverage. There are new graphics.
This is a memory lodged in my throat.
This is a memory that is insignificant compared to those of others.
This is something I can’t shake.