Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11th, 2009

It is September 11th, 2009, and it's a rainy day filled with friends' birthdays, new movie premieres, and the same old life dramas that unfold as they do on any other weekday of the year. I am helping my friend in her new pet shop, and the dogs are happily yipping away in their new haircuts and pretty ear bows. Mariachi music booms from the stereo in the corner, and I feel happy too.

Yet, September 11th still pours its length of sorrow down my throat, scalding me with its hot brewed anger and sense of loss that settled over the city in 2001. Amidst the many chants of "Never forget," I wonder, "How could I forget?" Many tragedies occur in the world, vanquishing collective imaginations and destroying individual souls, but September 11th hit so close to home.

My mother took a video of the burning tower, a red gaping hole in its monolithic side, from the living room window of our apartment in the Lower East Side before gasping in terror at the realization that her daughters were far from her. I was in math class, on the Upper East Side, barely heeding the story that there was a small fire at the World Trade Center and freaking out when the small fire was in fact a large moment of suffering and death. I worried for my aunt, who rode the PATH train to the WTC train station every weekday at about the same time the planes swerved their long noses into those esteemed structures. But I pushed back the tears, and since then I've only cried minimally for that day.

Placing a plastic cover over the well of tears does not dry them; the pool becomes stagnant attracting mosquitoes of frustration and fear. Life on the Lower East Side was altered that week: bones of the deceased were irreverently laid underneath the elevated FDR drive, the parking lot of Pathmark was converted into an army communication base, the air stank of burnt flesh and gray fog, and my old elementary school became a shelter for the wounded. As a nurse, my mother volunteered there while my sister and I chilled in the church, trying to play games and find love in the midst of this chaos. And even though the smoke dissipated, it remained in my lungs, worsening my asthma, and seeping into my consciousness to rattle my nerves.

And on a day like today, I worry for my Arab friends, who work in stores and continue to suffer at the hands of Americans whose bellies swelled with prejudice against them from that day. The falling of the towers filled some New Yorkers, like my uncle, with an insatiable hunger for revenge. Habibi store windows were smashed, workers were insulted and spit on and called terrorists by patrons who had known them for years. And me, the lonely young Puerto Rican woman, tried to defend them with words. But I still worry that one of my friends will be physically hurt by someone who does not forget the anguish of that day (and is not expected to) but haphazardly transfers those feelings onto those who are not responsible.

Even though I am in the Bronx, far away from the street where I used to have the Twin Towers as my companions every morning and every night as I walked down Grand Street to the train or the Doughnut Plant or church, I will never forget what they used to look like standing tall against the changing colors of sky. I often wish I could see them there again, tired of traveling those twin lights that curve up into September 11ths' night skies with my eyes.

1 comment:

  1. this is a very insightful post. i especially like the way you spoke about the prejudice faced by our arab brothers and sisters on days like september 11th... and every other day.