September 12, 2001 and May 2, 2011


On September 12, 2001 I woke up from the short sleep that had been ceded reluctantly the night before in front of the television. Whether we turned off the broadcasts or just muted them long enough to process in our nightmares the ineffable tragedy we had just witnessed in real-time, I can’t remember. I don’t recall what I saw in my dreams nor can I viscerally touch the sense of freefall that accompanied all conscious and unconcious experiences then. But what I can recall with a sensation that resonates today, is that on September 12, I got out of bed and after saying goodbye to my fiance, a teacher whose school-day had been cancelled, I went down to work at 16th and Q.

My last act before we had closed the building in the clear afternoon the day prior had been to make sure all the preschool children had been picked-up from our evacuation point. My first act that September 12 was to make sure we would be ready to hold, as-scheduled, the performance of Rocket To the Moon that was currently running in the theater as a co-production between Woolly Mammoth and Theater J.

It was not a normal day of work. In fact, after that day, whatever normal was took a long time to emerge from a flurry of new procedures, color codes and prohibitions.

Last night, we stayed up too late again, watching in a different kind of amazement. Instead of horror there were waves relief, followed by disbelief, followed by scenes of euphoria, followed ultimately by the recognition not all too different from the one almost ten years ago: tomorrow there will be new work to do.

I woke up this morning, kissed my wife goodbye and left the house quietly so as not to wake the children who had been born into a world without the Towers. I left her to accomplish the 7-10 split of explaining to our almost-seven year old twins why we were so relieved without over-burdening them with too many details of the causus belli that allows their parents to feel relief at another’s death.

And as I write this, I’m riding the Metro to Dupont Circle and the sense of change while present is ambivalent. Yes, we’re all a little more cheerful than the average Monday morning rush crowd. We’re looking forward to rehashing last night’s experiences and this morning’s emotions with co-workers, colleagues and friends. But, if we see something we must still say something. We know the train we’re riding is as vulnerable today as it ever was. We are not children who believe that now we live happily ever-after. Untethered from the personification of all our anxieties and animosities, who can see what single or multiple obsession will take its place?

But this is definitely a new day, a new week of work. The tasks leftover from last Friday must be picked-up and moved forward and the new tasks of the new world we awoke to today, have to be discovered and ultimately, accomplished.

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