Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where were you?

I wouldn't normally write about this. It's too sensitive, too real.

Except as I woke up and walked out into the living room, I had this eerie, scared, feral feeling/memory of the Twin Towers coming down.

I felt my face go pale and my hands shake. A sudden fear that this could happen again and a burst of anger that we cannot predict the future.

I didn't realize it is September 11 until I logged on to the computer.

So where were you? Where was I?

Everyone who remembers this was somewhere. At work, in the grocery, walking somewhere, stuck in traffic, out for their swim, bike or run. I was getting my masters in journalism in Chicago at the time. The photo teacher often hired me to help a visiting artist or photographer set up their work in the art gallery on the first floor of the campus building.

The photographer I assisted that day was an older Jewish man. He did a series about concentration camps and how it seems that a modern society has settled in around them - the camps simply a place for tourists to visit. For example, one photo was of teenagers laughing and waiting for a train. The station name above them read "Auschwitz".

As expected of someone with an old soul, he was quiet and contemplative. We weren't overly chatty but neither were we silent. Sometimes we talked about his photo essay sometimes we simply discussed camera equipment and sometimes we talked about journalism.

As we were carefully placing the photos where he wanted them (and giving me the honor of helping him to decide), the receptionist located in the lobby outside the gallery leaned around the corner and said, "A plane just collided into a building in New York."

I could feel the fear pass between me and this man who had seen so much. Somehow we knew this was not the error of air traffic gone awry. After exchanging a look that said so many words, we continued to lay the photos out with shaking hands.

Concentration camp after concentration camp. Although the photos featured none of the horrible, heart shattering images of what humans can do to other humans, the ghosts screamed in terror from the dilapidated buildings.

The receptionist came out again and said, "It's terrorists."

The photographer's eyes, the ones who looked through a viewfinder and saw a melange of daisies growing from former terror factories, met mine. He whispered, "It's happening again."

So now along with memories of finishing Ironman, struggling against epilepsy and winning, hugging, loving, lives a polar opposite - a chunk of an atrophied heart.

Let's do ourselves a favor and never forget where we were.

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