Sunday, September 15, 2002

Fifteen minutes and counting until The Sopranos premiere. I have gone too long without a good dose of Tony.

My mom and I drove around Baltimore today looking for apartments for me. I saw one in Fells Point that was a dump, but an interesting fact about it was that above it in the row house, lived two renowned figure skating coaches. He didn't mention their names, but Fells point seemed a strange place for world class figure skating coaches to live. There is a skating rink here, a large one where Dorothy Hamill skates, but it isn't really close to Fells Point. The apartment that I saw was street level with horrid carpeting that had a huge stain in the middle. How people stain their carpets like that, I have no idea. It was a studio apartment that had a small kitchen and carpeted bathroom. Again, why people carpet their bathrooms, I have no idea. We knew we were going to see an inexpensive place, but this was a dump. Baltimore is hit and miss, sometimes you get a great place for cheap, other times you get a pit. I require hardwood floors too, as carpet in apartments is disgusting and completely depressing, since they always use the cheapest crap they can find.

I had an interview in Washington, DC for a position as a project manager. I woke up at 6am on Tuesday to catch the 7:20am MARC train to Washington. I was pressed, washed and primped, not a hair out of place with my new do, and I carried my resume in a leather binder under my arm. I watched the daily commuters with interest who boarded the train or congregated at the stops as we pulled up. This was a daily ritual for them. Everyone was in business attire and I wondered what they all did for a living as they passed me by looking for an open seat. There was a young caucasian man who was reading photocopied, hand-written Arabic and highlighting sections, and I wondered if he was one of the new recruits for the CIA or FBI.

The entire trip took around two hours, with me getting to the interview at just before 9:30, when it was scheduled. The woman that I interviewed with was very nice and smart, but I think the job was more task-oriented instead of my preferred project-oriented, and the place was very corporate. Hardly the warm, creative, and vibrant atmosphere that I was looking for. It did pay a lot of money though, around $62,500 a year. However, money isn't important, as I've had money before and it doesn't mean a darn thing if you aren't happy. And for me, it would only solve short-term money problems and not the long-term career woes that I'm currently having.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

One year later.

I feel like the country as this day passes, can exhale after holding its breath for a year. It's a beautiful windy day, too windy almost. Perhaps that is America exhaling. More strongly here, near New York and Washington, DC, and softer as our collective breath is dispersed across the plains, then picking up again toward the West Coast.

The TV stations are crammed with images of memorials, grieving relatives, and moments of silence. But defiantly, life goes on as evidenced in the coffee shop that I visited today. People from all backgrounds walked in and talked pleasantly among each other. The owner of the shop, who is either Cuban or Puerto Rican, and I collaborated to come up with an alternative solution for a frozen mocha since they were out of their mocha mix. And that, in these pockets of America, the America that the terrorists cannot see, is where we truly triumph.

Osama bin Laden and his Al Quaeda terrorists may think they have successfully hidden from us, but that pales in comparison to the millions of pockets that America proudly wears in her quilt that Osama will never reach, and never find. The pockets where races, religions, ages, sexes, and backgrounds mix and cooperate to achieve another day of freedom. And yes, even on the day that is the sad anniversary of a hideous act by a terrorist group who tried to steal that freedom away. Unlike the caves in the Middle East, our pockets move, never in the same place as they were the day or hour before. The tiny pockets of triumph in America work like a kaleidoscope. And that is where we truly are untouchable, as a moving target is the hardest of all to attack.

A couple of weeks after September 11, 2001 is an example of one of those pockets. I received an e-mail from my aunt who asked if those of us on the West Coast had received our rehearsal dinner invitations for my cousin's wedding. None of us had, except for one person. That person received the invitation from London via overnight mail sent by a person with a Middle Eastern name. Inside, was the invitation, torn and coated with a white powdery dust, and a note written on Waldorf Astoria stationery. The note from the sender read that he had found the letter downtown in New York on September 11th, and thought she would like to have it. This man, in all the chaos of September 11th, picked up a piece of mail, carried it with him to London and made sure it got to the intended recipient.

We deduced that the mail had been on one of the hijacked planes that hit the World Trade Center. All the invitations, mine included had been sent on September 10th from Maine. Maine mail goes through Boston, and commercial airlines regularly take US Mail as part of their cargo, especially for cross continental flights. The mail would have been on one of the Boston flights, either on Flight 175 or Flight 11. How it survived, is incredible. How it made its way into the hands of a kind stranger, is even more incredible.

As of today, she is only person who received her invitation.

The story of the hijacked mail that made it to it's destination was picked up by USA Today. It would have received much more publicity, as press from all over the world was trying to reach her, but she wanted to retain her privacy and didn't want to make a spectacle of something that was a result of such a tragic event. Robert Taylor, who is quoted in the article is my uncle who lives here in Maryland.

I remember that I was very unnerved that my name and address had been on one of the planes that slammed into the Towers. It brought it that much closer to home for me that in a way, "I" had been onboard one of those planes. I contacted the person who had received the invitation and asked her if I could see it. She lived in Los Angeles, so it was a local trip. I'd never met her before and told her I needed to "touch" what had happened so I could start the process of accepting it. After some interrogation, she agreed when she realized my intentions were honest and I met her at her office. I held the letter in my hand, still caked with dust from the Twin Towers, torn, watermarked, its happy red envelope and playful invitation a contrast to where it had come from. As I held it, I had a sensory experience. I could hear the sounds of the jet turning, the screeches of the engines as they thrust into high gear, feel the shift of the plane as it rounded its way to New York, and sense the fear of the people and the helplessness of all aboard. I was holding in my hand, a survivor from that plane. It had been there and witnessed it all, and communicated what it had experienced through my fingertips.

On this September 11th, I went to a church service with my mom who sings in the church choir. They had a slide show of the events and some of the victims as the choir sung a somber requiem, and several speakers from all religions at the service, including a search and rescue team who brought their two golden retriever dogs who had done S&R at the Pentagon after the attacks. After the service, I pet the dogs, Pacy and Sam, to let them know how much they were appreciated. They had their rescue gear on, doggie jackets with reflective lettering on them. I can't imagine how beautiful their furry faces must have looked to people trapped in the rubble.

I just realized that I made good on some of my goals after September 11th, 2001. I wanted to move closer to family, and I have. I wanted to start living again, and I'm beginning to do that. And, I wanted to relax my brow and exhale, if even just for a little while.

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.