We're the ones your mother warned your about...No, seriously. We are.

Today should not be about what it will be used for.

It has been years since I've been to New York. I was born there, though. Huntington, Long Island. We lived there until I was...I want to say nine. Things tend to blend together when you're that age, but I was in third grade when we moved to New Hampshire. (you ever want to talk about culture shock....)

We visited several times in the years following - family weddings, friends of my parents, the like. But as the years went by, less of our lives was in New York, until there was....really nothing personal for me there. Oh sure, there were people my mother talked to, but I didn't really know anyone there.

Despite that, though, there was always a part of me that's from New York - the bagel place in Londonderry NH that when I asked for lox & cream cheese one Saturday morning after they opened that gave me actual salmon instead of a spread instantly gained my patronage until the day they closed. The day the Yankees won the World Series (for the first time in the last string of wins) I walked in to teach Cycle in my Yankees jersey in the middle of Red Sox territory. Not even a month ago, I was sounding off about my landlord to one of my neighbors that was from New York, and it would seem my voice reverted back to the accent of my nine-year old self in my annoyance, because she stopped and went, "Hey, I didn't know you were from Long Island!" I mean, who wouldn't be proud to be from New York? Where else can you get some of the finest cultural establishments in the world and then buy a really good Rolex for five bucks on the street outside of where the latest Pop Tart is appearing on TRL?

We've all seen the destruction of New York. It's a cinematic favorite. In any action movie of mass mayhem and threat to the earth as a whole, nothing is truly in danger until New York is either threatened or decimated. Veritable standard, that. You blow up the Empire State Building, you incinerate the Lions outside the Public Library, you level the Twin Towers. It's some spectacular CGI.

Then, one day....we saw them level the Twin Towers.

It wasn't aliens. It wasn't even the asteroids that will supposedly one day kill us anyway. It was just...people. People killed the Twin Towers.

I watched. I wasn't there. I can't tell you a story of survival. My personal tale includes no heroism, and is nothing that will be featured on Dateline NBC. But I remember getting a phone call, and turning on Good Morning America just in time to hear Charlie Gibson say, "And we're hearing that there's been some kind of explosion down at the Twin Towers. We're not sure what's going on yet, but we're going to go to a live feed from our roof and see what we can get you."

The screen flickered, and then we were on the roof with whoever the cameraman was up there, his voice narrating away for, I suppose, the simple reason that they hadn't had time to get an anchor up there with him.
"There's a fire, I can see that.....but if you look, people are waving from the windows, it looks as though they're all right. I don't know what happened to the building, but it looks like some people are already starting to recover from the - oh god what are they...oh god, there's a plane - HOLY SHIT!"

The censors didn't catch that, needless to say. I'm sure they had other things on their minds.

From that moment on, like the rest of America, the world stopped for a day. Because we watched. It was too incomprehensible not to. How.... no. It's just. It's not possible.

Then we waited. We waited for the tolls. While we waited, New York moved. It moved with the lightning speed that it is so renowned for. Emergency crews shot towards the site, not knowing that in hours, that very act would cost many - too many - their lives. It wasn't just those paid to help that showed up, though. There are countless stories that surfaced later of people who turned around and went back - to hold doors for the injured, to carry strangers out to the ferries, to stop and give on the spot help to people who couldn't get to it themselves. I remember Sam telling me in passing a bit back that he'd heard that the actor Steve Buscemi, who was a former volunteer fire fighter, picked up his gear and went down to help - ironic, since he was one of the stars of Armageddon. Whether that's true or not, I don't know, but he wasn't alone. Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals came in from off duty, helping to set up trauma units for injured that would never live long enough to see them. Because you see, the terrorists had been thorough in their job. Never let it be said they hadn't done their task to the utmost. We just didn't know it yet.

Because right after that, the sky fell. Or that's what it must have felt like.

Even before the first tower fell, about an hour after the initial impact, the anchors already had architectural experts in, talking about structural damage, and what would have to be done to rebuild and repair the building. Why? Because this was New York, and we could, that's why. We'll fix them, and they'll be fine, and it'll be like you and yours were never even here. Because that's what you deserve - to be thought of as the nothing sonofabitches you are - so fuck you, and fuck ya mutha. Because this is New York.

But then the sky fell.

The sky fell, and people ran, and those who had come to help were killed right along with those they'd been there to save. The trauma units remained empty as the doctors and nurses and volunteers waited for people to help, only to find out that it was too late.

Those of us that couldn't be there watched, as if watching would somehow help, somehow make it better. It wasn't until then that I fully understood the stories from people who were alive during the Kennedy assassination about how people were literally afraid to leave their televisions for about two days because just when you thought you'd seen it all and the worst was over, something else would happen on a live feed, and you never knew what it would be.

The Two Towers were gone. Gone How...how is that even possible?

First, the brain boggles, then the mind sets it to action. We did what Bronzers always do. We headed to the 'net. Television screen on right next to the computer, Instant Messenger going nuts, burning up the bandwidth at Camp & other boards. The New York/New Jersey Bronzers - let's start a list of who they are, and make sure we can find them all. Who have you talked to? I remember leaving a voice mail on Dao Jones' cell saying something about how I was sure she was trying to get through to her family, so don't worry about calling me .... (oh my god, I just saw her. Not a week ago...) she ended up staying the night in Jersey before she could get back to her apartment. Several Bronzers were there when the Towers were hit, and thankfully, they survived to tell the tale later. Someone check the DC Bronzers, make sure they're okay. It was at moments like these that one begins to truly appreciate the network of people that not only are in the Bronze community, but also care.

I talked to Anya, who was, as always, annoyingly logical. Air traffic had been shut down in Toronto too, and that city went into defense mode as well, just in case. Ah, the joy of being America's neighbor.

I AIMed with moppety, talking her down from panic because two cousins of hers were supposed to be on duty in the Pentagon, and walked her through what they did, suddenly glad for years of hearing my brother and father discuss military knowledge that enabled me to assure her that based on what she'd said, they were most likely in the underground level, and safe from the explosion. (She later found out later that they weren't there at all, thank the Powers)

Sam and I kept one another company, trading news articles, seeing what he had heard in Pittsburgh as opposed to what the Boston stations were saying during the few moments that the networks turned the feed over to give their people a breather, and theorizing that Peter Jennings was just mainlining crack whenever the camera wasn't on him, because that was the only reason we could come up with that he hadn't just....fallen over. How many shirts did he go through in the course of that coverage? I've always kind of wondered.

They played it over and over again. This time, the words of the cameramen who had been filming the horror were edited out, which left nothing but an eerie silent film of explosions. The silence was worse, somehow. Yet, you couldn't help but watch.

I could go on. I could tell you more. About the anger at the terrorists, the fear that comes with having family members in and around the military when things like this happen. But my gift is, at best, a comedic turn of words. In a couple days, there'll be a quote page update, and a piece about Abercrombie & Fitch's descent from advertising to plain ol' soft porn. So for me to sit here at my computer, and try to form words and phrases that could sum up that day two years ago....I'm not sure it's possible. I don't know that it ever will be possible. I can say this - out of that day, both miraculous good and aggrevious wrongs have been wrought. I don't know if this is what those behind the 9/11 bombings wanted, but that's what we have. I can say that I am appalled at the travesties that the present administration has been allowed to use 9/11 to accomplish. I know that my grandchildren will be paying for the repercussions of it, both culturally and economically, and some day, I will have to try to explain to them what happened and why. I tried, the night after we began to drop bombs on Iraq, to work through those things, and I don't think I did it justice, but I've been told by others that this jumble of emotions was their reaction as well, so at least I'm not alone in my discombobulation. Those who say they understand, that they can lend clarity to what happened - I don't understand that. I am reminded of a statement made on The West Wing, when a Secret Service agent was talking about an assassination attempt. "It was an act of madmen."

It was. It was an act of madmen. That, in itself, is the one sentence that can come close to describing what happened.

I shouldn't be writing right now. I should be finishing up an e-mail invitation to bring customers into a lecture that my company is holding at the beginning of the month in Las Vegas. But somehow, advertising a better way to get synovial fluid just doesn't seem all that important today. (Okay, honestly, it doesn't seem important any day, but you know what I mean.) In fact, I wasn't going to write about this. I wasn't there, and really thought that I didn't have the right. Even now, two years later, I feel almost pretentious doing this. I probably wouldn't have, except for the essay run at tomatonation.com today that reminded me of exactly what the world was like on that day. Damn you Sars. It's all your fault that I stopped what I was doing and have just spent the last half hour typing this out with such speed and vengeance that I'm sure my keyboard is about to take a contract on my life. When you're done hearing me ramble, go over and see what she has to say. It's worth it. I had to read her work in parts so that I wouldn't break down and start crying in the middle of my office. No matter what kind of bullshit our (dubiously "elected") meglomanical ass of a President may say, her essay tells you what really happened, not what they want you to think happened.

The truth is, on September 11, 2001, a group of madmen killed the Twin Towers.

And now, in their wake, it's left to us to rebuild the world from both their destruction, and that which America has wrought after it. Today should not be about what it will used for. I don't need a flag, and I certainly I don't want to hear about how our actions overseas are a tribute to those who died on that day.

Because in the end, I don't need your fucking bumper sticker.

How on earth could you think anyone would possibly forget.

~ Claris
September 11, 2003

Claris' somewhat jumbled attempt to make sense of things
(No, you didn't miss an update - this one never made it live other than my LiveJournal.)

For Thou Art With Us, by Sars.

Special thanks to Lovely Poet for finding this - Steve Buscemi was there...