Sunday, September 08, 2002

All weekend, I've been thinking of Them.

The ones, who did not know they had just enjoyed their last weekend on earth. Or that they had less than 72 hours left with their families. That their ordinary work week would not bring them to a choice between life and death, but a choice between deaths. Burning alive, or jumping from a window from at least 80 stories up. Their offices or the planes that they rode on would become death traps, their coworkers or strangers the last people they saw alive, and a few "lucky" ones would make their last phone calls to family to say what so many of us can't when it's just a regular day.

On Saturday, as I sat outside at the coffee shop, the day was beautiful. But my mind drifted to Them. I looked up to the blue sky and remembered that September 11th had started out a day like this. Just like this without a cloud in the sky. Perfect for a spectacular view at breakfast at Windows on the World, or perfect for a maniacal group of terrorists to clearly see their targets.

I wondered about the normal smells and sounds those people encountered as they began their work day. The bouquet of scents when they stepped into the elevator in the morning. Perfume, toothpaste, coffee, cologne, leather from briefcases, shampoo, soap, hair spray, starch, detergent, cigarettes, and egg McMuffins. The sounds of cellular phones, newspapers rustling, material against material, sneezes, slurps from coffee drinkers, footsteps, shifting briefcases and files from one arm to the other, dings as the elevator stopped and dropped off lower floor workers who would live as the doomed who worked on the upper floors parted to let them pass.

I thought about the chaos inside when the planes hit and the smell of jet fuel and acrid smoke infiltrating floor after floor, and how artifacts of the normal America must have laid about in contrast. Starbucks cups and McDonalds bags beaming logos that have now become a part of Americana, bagged lunches that would never be eaten, post it notes, a box of Krispy Kremes, Kleenex tissues, staplers, paperclips, Scotch tape, and Koosh balls. But what was happening around these icons of daily life was not America. It was hell with the lid blown off.

I've been thinking of Them, not because the anniversary of that day of horror is closing in. It is because last year at this time was America's last few days of living in a world without September 11th. It was just a day in the life of America, and though I was going through a very hard time, I still had the dream to strive for. America as I'd known it my whole life was still available to me when I was ready for it again. No one, myself included, had a clue that those days were numbered for us, nor were we prepared for the images of horror that would forever imprint onto our memories.

And the deep aching sorrow, for Them.


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