In the past fifteen years, I avoided watching most coverage on the attack on the Twin Towers.
I saw enough of that in 2001, but I had — and still have — little inclination to see or hear anything else — certainly not more of people emerging from smoke, ash-covered and stunned, or of firefighters, brave and worn, or of bodies falling from the skies and choosing for themselves a different conclusion.
Even now, I avoid watching these things. But a PBS show called 9/11: Inside the Pentagon, made me reconsider: perhaps this is the year I can watch something about that day.
But in the first half hour of the program was a clip of a plane hitting one of the towers.
I’ve never seen it. Have actively refused to chance seeing something, anything, like it.
But now I did. And I wish I could unsee it.
But there it was, finally seen, those familiar shapes of gray and steel against a perfect September sky.
I couldn’t watch the rest.
Last Sunday marked fifteen years since the attack. I didn’t commemorate the day on social media, didn’t acknowledge it, made no mention of it at all even in real life. I have mixed feelings about seeing all the images paying tribute to the heroes of that day, or hearing sound bites of news anchors reporting the events from New York and Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.
Only one of the tributes felt right: the Light. It felt, and still feels, hopeful. The rest never did, many of them tinged with the same hatred that made that day significant and terrible. Even this essay feels wrong to me, because it doesn’t quite capture everything I want to say or how I felt, being in the Battery Tunnel as it was filling with debris and smoke and white ash from one of the towers — to this day, I don’t know which one — and running, running, running, even though my lungs wanted to give up all effort and my legs felt like whales attached to the rest of me.
And it doesn’t encapsulate the gratitude I felt, and still feel, that, like so blessed few of us that day, I was able to come home to familiar beloved faces, when so many others, with lives and loves just like mine, did not.