Sunday, September 9, 2007

"the wolf is always at the door..."

The other day, I had to make a bunch of phone calls at work.

I called about thirty different people and I mostly got voicemail greetings. Each time, I had to recite that "the meeting that was set for Tuesday, September 11th has been cancelled."

And everytime I said those words, I felt that sick and depressed feeling that has been reserved only for those words...

Tuesday September 11 Tuesday September 11 Tuesday September 11...

THE September 11 was a Tuesday as well...

In a New York minute
Everything can change
In a New York minute
Things can get pretty strange
In a New York minute
Everything can change
In a New York minute

Has it really been six years?

There are days when I am on the commuter train in the morning, and as we approach New York City, I stare at the skyline and try to remember when those buidings were there, the days before 9/11, which really seems like another lifetime. I lived on Fulton Street when I was a child, so when I watched those buildings collapse on television, part of me felt like I was watching my backyard be attacked.

I had a class that morning...Mass Communication with Professor Huber..and he entered and told us to just go to the student center to watch what was going on downtown.

We made it there just in time to see the second plane hit.

September 11, 2001 was also the first day I had ever driven alone.

I was a VERY nervous driver, and didn't get my license when I was 17 like all of my friends did. Finally, I was forced to learn to drive because I transferred to Monmouth, which was only eight miles from my home.

That morning, I got into my dad's old car and drove...all by was a huge milestone for me, and I remember thinking what a beautiful day it was. The sky was so blue and I had overcome my fear of was good.

I was so happy and relieved to get to school in one piece that morning, and then about ten minutes later, watched the World Trade Center collapse, and went right back home...driving about five miles a minute...trying to erase those images from my mind just for those eight miles.

I called my mother, and the first thing she said was, "Don't worry, everybody is okay." I'm not exactly sure HOW she knew that so soon, and even though our close friends and relatives weren't hurt or killed that day, the truth was, NOTHING was okay. NOBODY was okay, and it would be a very long time before any of us began to heal.

There was a girl on television that day...she was probably a few years older than me, and Katie Couric was interviewing her. Both her boyfriend and her older brother worked in the World Trade Center, and she hadn't heard from either one of them yet. I remember how fast she was speaking, how hard she was trying to keep her composure...she even made a joke with Katie about how her boyfriend had never heard of Katie Couric, and "who hasn't heard of Katie Couric??????" I remember that girl, and I still think about her, and wonder if her boyfriend and brother survived...or if neither had.

Two days after the attacks, I went to work at the bookstore, and it seemed like every person who came in wanted a book of Nostradamus' prophecies...because, apparently, Nostradamus had predicted ALL of this. I wanted to wack these people on the HEAD with the biggest hardcover of Nostradamus' prophecies that I could find. Who cares? What difference did it make? Nothing was going to brings the thousands of people back.

That night, I had my first real cry over what had happened. It finally hit me, and I just broke down and cried all night.

Lying here in the darkness
I hear the sirens wail
Somebody's going to emergency
Somebody’s going to jail
If you find somebody to love in this world
You better hang on tooth and nail
The wolf is always at the door

Last year, on the 5th anniversary of 9/11, my train was stopped because of "suspcious activity" at Penn Station. They made us get out at Seacaucus, and we all pretty much did the same right back on trains going home. When I called my office to alert them that I wouldn't be coming in, I was greeted with annoyance. This was the first day I was missing in seven months, and my voice certainly sounded upset and shakey. I realized that if somebody couldn't understand why I would be so upset on this day of all others, it was their problem. I'll never forget that feeling of, "Something is happening again, something is happening again..."

And so I spent the 5th anniversary of the attacks watching family members of the victims read their names and crying.

For some reason, I can never turn off any kind of television special on 9/11. I just feel a responsibility to it some kind of survivor's guilt? I'm not sure.

There was one thing I was incredibly grateful for after these attacks...and that was that my father was not around to see what happened to his city. (My father died on a Tuesday as well.) I always had the feeling that my dad wasn't nearly as happy living in New Jersey as he was when we lived on Fulton Street...and part of me feels like if we never moved, he wouldn't have died. (I know this is a weird way to in New Jersey doesn't give you lung cancer...smoking does.)

I know my sister once said that she had a feeling that if my dad hadn't died of cancer when he did, he would have died on 9/11. While I don't know if I feel the same way, I understand it...and that losing him on 9/11, the way that so many people lost their parents, children, friends, spouses...would have been infinitely harder.

If anything, watching his city go through that would have absolutely broken my father's heart...and I felt an immense sense of relief that he was spared that.

What the head makes cloudy
The heart makes very clear
The days were so much brighter
In the time when she was here
But I know there’s somebody somewhere
Make these dark clouds disappear
Until that day, I have to believe
I believe, I believe

I went to see the movie United 93 when it came out, mainly because I had a friend in the cast. I am honestly not sure if I would have gone otherwise, but I am glad that I saw that movie. I admit, I barely ever gave much thought to what happened in Pennsylvania or Washington that mind and heart were too consumed with the city...MY city...and what had happened there. There were a couple of college-aged girls on Flight 93...there's no difference between them and my friends. It could have very easily been one of us. Nothing makes it all seem more "real" than thinking about that.

When we were kids, we would draw pictures of the skyline, and the only part of the picture which was remotely accurate were the two tall towers in the center. I don't think we ever bothered to include the Chrysler Building or the Empire State Building in our artwork. Makes me do children draw New York City's skyline now? What sets it apart from San Francisco or Chicago? I know it's a petty thing to think about when thousands of people died, but I'd be lying if I said it never crossed my mind.

The weeks after the attacks,I'd read the obituaries in the local paper and see all the commuters who were killed that day. One young woman's read "she was murdered on September 11"...that stuck with me...murdered...she was murdered...they all were murdered.

I remember on the day after the attacks, I was IMing with my cousin, and as we signed off, I typed, "I love you." I realized that with a lot of my relatives and friends, "I Love You" is reserved for major life events...weddings, funerals, baby arrivals. I believe the only other times this cousin and I had exchanged those words were at my father's funeral and her own wedding...but ever since that day, I have always tried to make "I love you" be the last words I say to somebody when we're saying goodbyes.

As cliche as it might sound, you never know when you are talking to somebody for the very last time.

And in these days
When darkness falls early
And people rush home
To the ones they love
You better take a fool’s advice
And tak care of your own
One day they’re here;
Next day they’re gone

And as the sixth anniversary of that dark, horrible day approaches, I once again realize just how fleeting life can be...

In a New York minute
Everything can change
In a New York minute
You can get out of the rain
In a New York minute
Everything can change
In a New York minute

Diana Rissetto

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Hey Diana - I know exactly what you're talking about. I work just a few blocks away from the WTC site & watched & felt it all as it was happening. I also walked home on the FDR Drive in a cloud of dust, only later to learn the horror of what it all was .
Did you also get the feeling, like I did for days, weeks after 9/11 that everybody you passed on the street or sat accross from on the train was thinking the same thing you were? All sad & far away looks and at the same time thinking 'yes, I understand.'