daily preciousness

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

a whole year

Can't believe it's been a whole year.

I woke up this morning at 4 a.m. in a cold sweat. A cold sweat! How melodramatic of me -- I revisited ghastly scenes in a few flashplayer style dreams. Evil dreams and evil awakenings.

Just the idea of having bad dreams a whole year later is sort of funny. I read this great quote later in the day.

It explains why I laughed at myself.

Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility, according to James Thurber. How true! In the relative tranquility of a year’s time, I had to laugh at my fears.

It was the proverbial cold sweat. Don't know why. I guess it was national mourning anxiety or something. After half an hour of reading, I fell back to sleep.

I felt a need to get up quickly around 8. Something within -- some driving force -- made me jump out of bed and slap my clothes on. I packed up my camera bag and my MD player. I put in some Paul Schwartz Earthbound and some latin electronica.

I made a rush for the metro train in the crisp, cool morning. I jumped on, right before the train left and soon realized I was on the wrong one.

So I was late for the beginning of the ceremony. A woman in a crisp khaki uniform, her blonde curls folding over in the September sunlight, was at the podium. As I stepped up, she was warning people about watching too much TV with their children.

"I urge you," she cautiously intoned, "please be judicious in your use of the TV with your family. We don't want our children to view the events of last year too much."

Next, she introduced a swarthy first lieutenant who sang the national anthem. He belted it out, army style. It echoed throughout the little gateway park plaza in downtown Rosslyn, Virginia.

Next, the woman led the assembled group of 300 or so people in the pledge of allegiance. For me, it was a peculiarly meaningful pledge.

(Normally, I just abstain from reciting it. The thing just doesn't mean much to me, for the most part. Being a second-class citizen, I don't think that the whole "liberty and justice for all" bit is really truthful. I mean, if it were real, then I'd be at liberty to marry a guy and co-adopt with my honey. But that's probably not a patriotic enough subject for this special day. Suffice it to say that I'm generally not that patriotic.)

Well, today was different. I stood in solidarity with hundreds of other people who'd felt a great loss a year ago. We stood together and spoke those words of allegiance together and had a wonderful shared experience of grief.

It was healthy to listen to the pealing of the bell.

One-hundred and forty-eight rings tolled for the deaths of the people at the Pentagon and on AA Flight 77 that crashed into it.

There was a reverent hush amongst the gathered mourners as the 148 lives were signified. Gusts of wind played with our hair. The first fall leaves got torn off, unceremoniously, from their branches. The rough winds tossed us back and forth and carried the sound of the bell with it.

Before long, the 148 rings had sounded. So I left, wordlessly, holding my program. I stuffed it in my photo album later that morning, sealing it into my material memory.

Work was routine. A little quiet. I think most people stayed home and went into the land of pseudo-therapeutic, TV-fueled shared experience news programming instead of coming into the library.

I steered clear of all of that hullabaloo, for the most part. I unintentionally followed that blonde lady’s advice by keeping the TV off.

But I called Mark to chat. And he told me about a CBS special based on a French filmmaker’s documentary. It was called Guidion’s Crossing, or something like that.

It was impressively well done. Very touching. Heartfelt and exhaustingly thorough.

It had little bits and pieces of news comment… little snippets of what most of America saw, glued to CNN in shocked silence.

It was a difficult program to turn off, even though I wanted to just stop watching it. So I called him afterwards and we had a pleasant chat.

He made me smile as we joked about Jewish and Irish families and other stereotype-rich conversational fodder. Thanks, Mark.

I needed a few smiles before I fell asleep that night. I didn’t want to dream about 9/11 again.

Again! Still can’t believe it’s been a whole year….

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