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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Life Changed That Day

"You'd better come see the TV."
"One of the Twin Towers just got hit by a plane or better come down here and look at this."
I pulled the covers away from my face and wiped the sleep from my eyes, letting the information marinate a bit. I was stunned and I think in shock a little.
"What do you mean a plane hit the Twin Towers? That can't even happ..."
"It did, or something did. Come see!"
I rolled out of bed and descended the stairs to find Liliana and her youngest son huddled around the television, with a look of shock and terror on their faces. I knew instantly why she was more mortified than anyone else, her oldest son was out of the country, visiting their family in Italy, and at a time like this, you just want your family by your side, and she certainly wanted her son to be safely home, with her.
My own family was 3000 miles away, and on rocky ground with me, and I wanted nothing more than to run to their side and hug them.

As I poured my coffee and staggered my way toward the TV, I heard Liliana saying "Oh! My GOD, look at..."
That's when I saw it. The second plane hit. My knees buckled and my head spun. Did I just see what I think I just saw?
I did. I had to set my coffee down and wipe my eyes, trying to discern if I was dreaming or hallucinating or, if this was in fact actually happening.
From that moment on, my life has forever been changed.
There's a pre 9/11 America, and a post 9/11 America. That's a given, but what isn't often talked about is how our individual lives changed on that day.
I know mine did. My outlook, my thought process, my appreciation for those I love and for those who I don't even know has grown more than I can possibly measure or express with mere words.
Before September 11, 2001, I never thought that I would live to see an attack of that magnitude on our own soil, with our own machinery even.
Before September 11, 2001, I never thought that my country would return to such paranoia, discrimination, and prejudice as that which we fought so hard to overcome in the 60's.
I saw people mistaking Hispanics for Arabs and yelling foul, disgusting and obscene things at them. I saw some of the worst behavior I've ever witnessed in my lifetime.
I also saw some of the most beautiful displays of humanity. The pendulum swung fully both ways in the days following the attacks.
On the day after, September 12, 2001, my then girlfriend, the Wanderer and I rode around Sacramento and saw people standing on every corner holding candlelight vigils. Strangers holding hands and holding candles and waving flags and blotting tears.

I saw children collect water, canned goods, supplies of all sorts to send to the rescue crews.

This was indeed, a day that will stay in my memory and always illicit those thick, rigid goosebumps when ever mentioned. It is a single day, a horrific event that has helped to shape who I am and who I will be for the rest of my life.

How did September 11th change you?

self evident
~Ani Difranco

us people are just poems
we're 90% metaphor
with a leanness of meaning
approaching hyper-distillation
and once upon a time
we were moonshine
rushing down the throat of a giraffe
yes, rushing down the long hallway
despite what the p.a. announcement says
yes, rushing down the long stairs
with the whiskey of eternity
fermented and distilled
to eighteen minutes
burning down our throats
down the hall
down the stairs
in a building so tall
that it will always be there
yes, it's part of a pair
there on the bow of noah's ark
the most prestigious couple
just kickin back parked
against a perfectly blue sky
on a morning beatific
in its indian summer breeze
on the day that america
fell to its knees
after strutting around for a century
without saying thank you
or please

and the shock was subsonic
and the smoke was deafening
between the setup and the punch line
cuz we were all on time for work that day
we all boarded that plane for to fly
and then while the fires were raging
we all climbed up on the windowsill
and then we all held hands
and jumped into the sky

and every borough looked up when it heard the first blast
and then every dumb action movie was summarily surpassed
and the exodus uptown by foot and motorcar
looked more like war than anything i've seen so far
so far
so far
so fierce and ingenious
a poetic specter so far gone
that every jackass newscaster was struck dumb and stumbling
over 'oh my god' and 'this is unbelievable' and on and on
and i'll tell you what, while we're at it
you can keep the pentagon
keep the propaganda
keep each and every tv
that's been trying to convince me
to participate
in some prep school punk's plan to perpetuate retribution
perpetuate retribution
even as the blue toxic smoke of our lesson in retribution
is still hanging in the air
and there's ash on our shoes
and there's ash in our hair
and there's a fine silt on every mantle
from hell's kitchen to brooklyn
and the streets are full of stories
sudden twists and near misses
and soon every open bar is crammed to the rafters
with tales of narrowly averted disasters
and the whiskey is flowin
like never before
as all over the country
folks just shake their heads
and pour

so here's a toast to all the folks who live in palestine

el salvador

here's a toast to the folks living on the pine ridge reservation
under the stone cold gaze of mt. rushmore

here's a toast to all those nurses and doctors
who daily provide women with a choice
who stand down a threat the size of oklahoma city
just to listen to a young woman's voice

here's a toast to all the folks on death row right now
awaiting the executioner's guillotine
who are shackled there with dread and can only escape into their heads
to find peace in the form of a dream

cuz take away our playstations
and we are a third world nation
under the thumb of some blue blood royal son
who stole the oval office and that phony election
i mean
it don't take a weatherman
to look around and see the weather
jeb said he'd deliver florida, folks
and boy did he ever

and we hold these truths to be self evident:
#1 george w. bush is not president
#2 america is not a true democracy
#3 the media is not fooling me
cuz i am a poem heeding hyper-distillation
i've got no room for a lie so verbose
i'm looking out over my whole human family
and i'm raising my glass in a toast

here's to our last drink of fossil fuels
let us vow to get off of this sauce
shoo away the swarms of commuter planes
and find that train ticket we lost
cuz once upon a time the line followed the river
and peeked into all the backyards
and the laundry was waving
the graffiti was teasing us
from brick walls and bridges
we were rolling over ridges
through valleys
under stars
i dream of touring like duke ellington
in my own railroad car
i dream of waiting on the tall blonde wooden benches
in a grand station aglow with grace
and then standing out on the platform
and feeling the air on my face

give back the night its distant whistle
give the darkness back its soul
give the big oil companies the finger finally
and relearn how to rock-n-roll
yes, the lessons are all around us and a change is waiting there
so it's time to pick through the rubble, clean the streets
and clear the air
get our government to pull its big dick out of the sand
of someone else's desert
put it back in its pants
and quit the hypocritical chants of
freedom forever

cuz when one lone phone rang
in two thousand and one
at ten after nine
on nine one one
which is the number we all called
when that lone phone rang right off the wall
right off our desk and down the long hall
down the long stairs
in a building so tall
that the whole world turned
just to watch it fall

and while we're at it
remember the first time around?
the bomb?
the ryder truck?
the parking garage?
the princess that didn't even feel the pea?
remember joking around in our apartment on avenue D?

can you imagine how many paper coffee cups would have to change their design
following a fantastical reversal of the new york skyline?!

it was a joke, of course
it was a joke
at the time
and that was just a few years ago
so let the record show
that the FBI was all over that case
that the plot was obvious and in everybody's face
and scoping that scene
the CIA
or is it KGB?
committing countless crimes against humanity
with this kind of eventuality
as its excuse
for abuse after expensive abuse
and it didn't have a clue
look, another window to see through
way up here
on the 104th floor
another key
another door
10% literal
90% metaphor
3000 some poems disguised as people
on an almost too perfect day
should be more than pawns
in some asshole's passion play
so now it's your job
and it's my job
to make it that way
to make sure they didn't die in vain
baby listen
hear the train?

© 2001 ani difranco / righteous babe music

3 cookies cracked:

Anndi said...

I had started a new job... in the section of Montreal filled with refineries. Not the most comforting place to be in. What if there were more terrorists, what if they struck elsewhere... refineries would blow up nice...

I was a member of a fire and emergency response crew, and I spent the next days mourning fallen rescue workers. People I didn't know, but who were family nonetheless. I held my baby girl. I cried.

I cried because of the hate in the world. I cried for the lost. I cried for those left behind.

Now, I see with great sadness a divided nation. People who have become righteous because if they believe they're right, no one else can be.

Where is theunity I saw when strangers hugged each other, comforted each other, helped each other? What will it take to see that again? *sigh*

Karen said...

I often discount other's feeling about 9-11. I'd be the first one to say, "You were safe in Iowa or Texas or California. You have NO IDEA." The smoke that hung over my house. That fact that my family and friends were unsafe. That smell that I lived with for months and months. The Muslims who were DANCING and CELEBRATING with fireworks in the streets. It is still so real and so raw for me.

Logically I know it effected every American and beyond. I know my pain and experience is no less important than anyone else's. But having lived it in reality and not of TV is something I will never get over. It helped solidify my social and political views. Right or wrong, it has forever changed how I feel when I drive past that Masque.

Thanks for sharing your experience. I think it is an important story.

Daf said...

Thinking of that day or seeing the images, to this day invoke panic in my heart. My husband called me while on the way to a mechanic shop. He said he heard on the car radio that something had just happened, that they thought that a plane may have hit one of the towers. I turned on the tv just as the plane hit the Pentagon while still on the phone. My husband states before they ever say anything, "It is a terrorist attack". Then the second plane hits the towers. That is when my panic began. Our phones went dead and no calls could be made for the next 12 hours.

I learned just before we lost phone comms that my father's state office building in Nashville was evacuated because of a bomb threat plus the capitol building is right across the street. My nerves were fried by that news, that is my daddy being threatened. He was trapped downtown for hours because he couldn't get his car and the buses were stopped.

I held my baby girl, waited for my oldest girl to get home from school and my husband from the mechanic shop. I waited with my neighbor until everyone was home.

I never understood why I have the panic attacks, I was in the military, I joined during the first Gulf War. Nothing ever phased me before. Maybe it was because I didn't have grenades and guns and other weapons available to protect myself and my family(like I really could have done something).

Over the next few weeks I jumped whenever the phone rang. My husband was still recallable into action. Heck they could call me but I doubt that they would ever again. I guess I would never hesitate to defend my country if they were accept my hefty self again, but the waiting for the call, the not knowing if we would have the call... jumpy is the only way to describe it.

That day I forever haunts me and I didn't lose a single person close to me. I didn't lose a single person I knew. I didn't even know a person who knew a person who had lost someone, but it is forever engraved in my soul. Forever I think I will cry, hitch a breath, hold myself, when I remember 9/11/01 or see the images and video footage.

I will always remember.