I think of 9-11 with a protective fiberglass shell in my memory. I don't let the full reality of it through the defenses or I crumble. It occupies a cubicle in my brain.
I watched 9/11 last night on tv. It's a documentary that sprang up out of a stunningly amazing serendipity. French brother filmmakers happened to be documenting a new young firefighter in New York as he went through his first nine months on probation. They happened to be documenting this firefighter when 9-11 happened.
One of the filmmakers, Jules, was in Tower One when Tower Two collapsed. When Tower Two collapsed, he was thrown to the ground by a firefighter who protected him with his own body. All of this was on film, Jules using the light from his camera to help everyone get out of Tower One, Jules running from the buildings, Jules on the ground--dust and depris thick as a tornado flying across the lens.
The other brother, Gedeon, filmed the faces of New Yorkers as they stared at the unbelievable sight of the Towers in flames, in pieces, in clouds of dust and smoke. His footage was equally stunning.
I watched all this rapt, in awe. But it was the crashing noises heard in the background as they were in Tower One that got to me. Jules explained that each crash was a body, someone jumping. The firefighters would turn their heads toward the noise, then a resigned pain would take over their faces. One of the firefighters said how unimaginably bad it must be up there for jumping to be the better option. The cubicle walls started to waver.
The scene of the two brothers back at the firehouse embracing, when each had been certain the other was dead, was another push on the fiberglass.
The scene of the people outside the firehouse cheering, raising signs of thank you, as the firefighters returned from digging through rubble pushed me over. The firefighters said they didn't feel like heroes, having only dug out one live person in 24 hours. Suddenly my memory was unprotected again. I felt the familiar pangs.
It's been 6 months. I go through every day without thinking about it. Even when Bush gets on his high horse talking about terrorism, I don't really think of his motivation. Even when I get on a plane and have to take my shoes off and get patted down, I don't contemplate why. It's just not something I want to think about. It hurts too much.
Yesterday I was forced to think about it. Well, I could have changed the channel. But I wanted to see this surprising sight, this documentary that had a one in a million chance of ever being made. And it was a one in a million experience. One I won't watch again. It hurts too much.