After 15 years, some words.

Can't write about, I told myself, just can't, just because I'm a writer, doesn't mean I can or that I should or that I am ready because some things exceed the grasp of words. I've talked about this day a wee bit. 

This riff isn't edited and isn't  poetic. It just is. Because I felt like writing today.  I had other deadlines but this is what I had to write.     

 I'd just arrived in D.C. because Gilles, a few months earlier, had taken job as Technical Director of US Bureau of CBC, responsible for radio and television, English and French, Washington and New York.  Yes, this feminist is one who'd follow the  man I loved anywhere.

Gilles left for work that morning early and I went for a walk. We'd moved into our teeny one bedroom condo in Cleveland Park two days before and I was eager to explore our new neighbourhood.

It was such a blue sky fresh air day. Everyone remembers that.  I walked up Ordway to Wisconsin, zigged and zagged towards the Cathedral, thought I was lost, made it sideways back home along Connecticut Avenue.  I felt like was in some weird version of a Monopoly game-- I was so very far from home.  

I loved where we'd chosen to live but we'd sold our three bedroom home on a lake ( our first and what I thought was my forever home )  for a shoebox size condo as homes in Cleveland Park were out of our price range. Still, it was to be our two year adventure, an experiment in urban living. For me,  it was the first time without children in my home, the first time living outside of the Maritimes, let alone Canada. 

 I was unpacking the boxes marked kitchen,  arranging juice glasses onto the shelves when Gilles called and asked could I start to pack a bag--- he had to rush home, fly out at once to New York : a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers.

I'd had my first visit to New York City only the week before. New York had never been on my dream destination list but  I seriously and unexpectedly fell head over heels in love. I'd caught New York Fever a New Yorker told me. 

As I threw together a change of clothes for Gilles,, I thought about the breathtaking view from the roof of the Bentley Hotel we shared that week before,about  watching small planes weave among the skyscrapers. I'd even remarked casually they look like they fly too close, don't they? They could have an accident! 

So of course that morning I thought that there was some horrible small plane  accident.   

When Gilles rushed in the door,  he took over packing his bag, while I tried to find a radio station -- ( our TV wasn't hooked up)-- then--and this is how I remember it -- I turned on the radio and the announcer said, 'Jesus, Jesus,, they've just bombed the Pentagon'. Gilles! Gilles! I think I yelled but no sound came out and our home telephone rang. It was a friend who was somewhere in Cape Breton, and editing a poem I'd written. Her voice was chirpy and  clear:  'Good morning, Sheree, is this a good time talk about the poem?' I have no recollection whatsoever what I replied before I hung up.  Gilles' cell phone rang. He was to return downtown at once, he couldn't go to New York...airports were shut down.  

I do remember he said come with me and I said no, you have to do your job and I'll only be in the way. I wasn't being brave, At ALL-- I just knew that was true. 

He left reluctantly, going back on the subway one way as throngs were coming the other way --because downtown D.C. was being evacuated.

I knew no one. I called my parents and couldn't get through. I watched a line of traffic in front of my window, watched parents run out of their cars, one man  leap frogging over hoods of those cars , as  he rushed into the daycare in the Temple across the street, -- I watched as if my window was a television screen, as he and other parents and young children spilled back out those doors, and I saw and-- forever burned in my mind-- is the look of TERROR on their faces.  

I found myself thinking but this is my dream, .. that recurring dream I used to have when my children were little -that dream that something horrible had happened in the world, and I couldn't get to my boys in time, that I couldn't find them. Sometimes in those dreams, I evenf heard them crying but still couldn't reach them . I figured all parents must have that dreams like that from time to time. The dream was constant and so disturbing to me that every time there was a disaster or bombing in other countries my heart caved because at some level, I'd almost felt the desperation of those parents. About then I started being very careful when I watched the news and what I watched. ( I still filter-today I turned off the radio when the sounds started up. But not because I do not care, not  because I am not remembering. ) 

 I  see myself  pacing  that wee living room.  back and forth,  listening to the radio. By this time, news of the  second tower being  hit. Then I remember a weird  "flash" I'd had two weeks before---in the daytime.

We'd been staying temporarily in an apartment complex near the airport. I was used to planes overhead.  But this day,  there was a deafening roar out of nowhere and I looked up to see  unusually low-flying plane overhead.  I almost ducked as Ilooked up at its underbelly. 

I got a whole body shiver,  had this distinct feeling, of something ominous, something to do with planes. The feeling was so powerful  I told Gilles about it at supper because --and i'd told him that day too, it was the same feeling I'd had the afternoon before the Swiss Air disaster.  

We'd shrugged it off then and we did that day too. My imagination is, after all, an active one. 

That night I woke up dreaming we were in a fire. I woke Gilles up and told him that I smelled smoke in my dream and there was a fire in the building. There wasn't and we talked about how moving was stressful and this was a big change and went back to sleep--- BUT two hours later there really was a fire and we had to evacuate our building. It rattled us both.Both the fire and my "weirdness".  

So on the morning of September 11th, like so many I've heard,  I did entertain the fact that maybe this was not real, I was in some alternate reality, or nightmare. Worse, maybe there really was something called precognition after all--- that old nightmare had not been a dream but a warning.  My children were grown, young men by then,  but something horrible in the world was happening, and I couldn't get to them.  

I knew No one.

 I was driving myself a little crazy alone so I finally worked up the nerve to go outside. People were out but not exactly going about their ordinary lives.  

I wandered across the street, sat down at a sports bar where people were huddled around three big screen televisions,. I asked Dave, the bartender, could I just order coffee and also,,, I'd just moved from Canada and my husband works for the CBC and he said so .. looks like  this seat has your name on it,  

A couple nearby gave me their number and said if you need us, call us. That evening, sitting in the bar my coffee turned into wine. 

 I wanted my  husband, my parents, most especially my sons: to hear their voices. There was a young man about their age sittingbeside me. I just moved from Canada I finally said to him. Like a confession. (They kept calling it an American tragedy on the news. I got it, but I kept thinking no ,no this a human tragedy.)  "I'm from Toronto!"  he said "Tony." I am pretty sure we hugged. 

There was so much comfort being with being with someone from "home."  There we were, two Canadians, side by side. I said I miss my sons, they're about your age and he said I miss my mother and we laughed and watched the horror on the screen and we cried  and we drank until we were drunk.

I remember wailing or maybe slurring-- I was wrong, I was wrong and my son, he was right. I was wrong these past years and when he was 15 he knew better than I did. Tony listened. 

How many times in his teens had I tried to make him see that there was more good than evil or bad in the world, that his lens was cloudy, that he was being too negative, had watched  too many bad movies, heard too many horrible lyrics, and that was WHY he was so jaded. Where was his faith ? I'd ask. Faith in what? he'd answer.  If not in God, then in Love I'd say. In seeign beauty and acts of kindness because after all, it is all too too too depressing to dwell on that darkness because you'll get swallowed in despair-- so think positive. I remember one of those times he  looked  at me sadly and said kindly but wearily,  Mama I love you but you are so in la-la land-- some day, someone's going to blow up the Capital of the US and then you'll see. I said how could you ever  ever even think such a thing? Or something like that.  I asked Tony from Toronto did he think like my son did and he said, actually, yes.

 I know young people often do know better...see clearer than adults, I knew that, because my son had/have always  been my greatest teachers,  but ..like every parent/ child, there was a  generation gap  I was guilty of.  

I did not want to hear what I did not want to hear.

Why didn't I ask him why he thought like he did, instead of telling him not to think that way ..more often? 

That night that son called, relieved to hear my voice. I apologized over and over for not hearing him better and told him I was sorry that he had been right. I was wrong. His vision of the world, of reality was much truer than mine.  And he said, Mum,mum,mum, mum, it's okay, it's okay-- and you are right too, there's still so much good in the world. There is, don't forget that. 

Roles had reversed, My words came back through him to me to offer some kind of speck of light in that dark dark night.  

I never saw Tony from Toronto again but Dave was a friend for a few years,  until the bar closed but they both got me through those first few days --became the sons I could not get to. 

Gilles and I drove to  New York on  Sept 13 to deliver a phone to satellite truck. When I scrolled though blog posts today, I found these , both written years afte .  I editedone a wee bit.  Some day I might write better and more.  We'll see. This was the day I knew I would never know  knew anything for certain again.   

 

 That day I roamed the streets of New York

ankle deep in smoky moondust

walked past people holding signs of missing loved ones

sat elbow to elbow with weeping strangers in St. Patrick's Cathedral

three days after that day

I died in some way

to a past life

 an old world 

a necessary lie 

today I woke up to sun

warming a potholed dirt road in the country

our long dreamed-of Innisfree

 there are woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees

a river. 

I stripped beds, excited to hang sheets on the line

but these lines came first

that's the thing about dates on a calendar  

asking who was born today or who died

or what happen this day

who right now cannot find their children. 

Remembering is necessary but treacherous 

you can suddenly find yourself lost

in a smoky jazz bar, or a church, or an old wound

scratch a forgotten yearning

for a time before you knew or saw

before the knowledge

that you are the blessed ones

the ones who get off easy every day

will never leave you 

 & you can only ever sing the blues

more truth 

than old familiar

 lullabies

        of hope

 

 

 

 

September 11, 2011 ( ten year . ) 

Ten years later, STILL NO WORDS

9/11, 2011 STILL

 

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