Ongoing (Nine Eleven, Part Two)

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O

Letter O is for the ongoing 9/11 correspondence.

                                                                                                                                                       
A to Z entries:  My post for each letter of the alphabet will be anecdotes or musings based on an element from the previous letter’s post.  Names always changed, events always real.

 ~ Letter N was for Nine Eleven.  This is Part Two and…ongoing correspondence. ~


 
In Part One, I described what it was like to be in New York on the eleventh of September in 2001.  I wasn’t just a New Yorker, but an Iranian-American one, and I was couch surfing between my family, friends and the old apartment I shared with my ex-boyfriend, A.  Before the eleventh, I was already anxious to get back to California and my budding relationship with Freezer.

The correspondence below begins on September 9th, and continues from the perspective of a girl concerned with the ordinary matters of her life in the midst of extraordinary events.  The mundane start to the emails contrasts the shift in psyche that occurs later in the exchange.  The exchange is with Freezer; I’ve included a couple of his replies.

 
Exchange before 9/11:


Subj: (no subject)
Date: 9/9/01 11:07:21 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From:  [Me]
To:    [Freezer]

[Four-year-old Brother] went to the doctor last week, and they said he’s anemic.  So not only is he taking an iron supplement, my stepmom is making him eat red meat every night (along with tons of greens).  She thinks it’s her fault he’s anemic.  Tonight she had a rare piece of lamb for him, except there were parts that were purple, completely raw on the inside.  [‘Lil Bro] kept turning his meat over and saying things like,

“Is that blood?  Do the animals have blood inside like we do?  Does it hurt when they bleed?”

And she’s like, “Yes, but it’s medicine for you, you have to eat it.”  So he unhappily eats it.  After, the meat juice is left on his plate and she tells him to dip his bread in it.  He says, “Noooo! that’s their blood!”  She gives him a look, and he does what she asked.

I worry it traumatizes the kid to think he’s drinking the blood of an animal that hurt when it bled, so I butt in with, “That’s not really blood, they drain the blood when they butcher it, that’s just juice from the meat.”

Meanwhile my stepmom is shaking her head and mumbling to herself, “My god, my god, my son’s become a blood-drinker, I had to turn my own son into a blood-drinker…”

Surely there’s a different way to approach this iron-deficiency!?


Subj: (no subject)
Date: 9/10/01 1:37:53 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From:  [Freezer]
To:    [Me]

Bolt your doors, lock your windows, hide your children and take shelter – the end is coming.


Subj: (no subject)
Date: 9/10/01 2:32:13 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From:  [Me]
To:    [Freezer]

???

Do mean the “blood”-drinking?

The end came long ago — didn’t you know we’re already “living” the post-apocalyptic?


Subj: (no subject)
Date: 9/10/01 11:56:03 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From:  [Me]
To:    [Freezer]

I’m bored.  It’s midnight, they’re home, I’m bloated.  I keep eating and eating here.  It’s like I’m compensating for some void.

My father played your message — I blushed as he put it on speakerphone.  My dad’s so cool, [F].  He’s charismatic and profound, and amazing-looking with all this thick silvery hair.

I feel like I shouldn’t get too excited about coming back to LA in case I’m just setting myself up for the disappointment of not getting there.  You see, I’m convinced something’s going to go wrong right before my flight and I’m not gonna make it back.  Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in some Twilight Zone limbo here.  If that happens, you HAVE TO PROMISE ME you’ll come here and take me away!!!  I don’t know why I’m so “traumatized,” but I am.  Maybe it’s living like a gypsy for a month, different couches, different showers, lugging suitcases all over town…  Or maybe I just miss you.  What do you think?
 

Exchange on 9/11:


Subj: (no subject)
Date: 9/11/01 12:59:13 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From:  [Freezer]
To:    [Me]

I just tried calling you, but the lines to NY are busy.  I hope you’re staying in today.  I saw the footage of the second plane crashing into the other tower – insane.  I’ll be home most of the day today, if you want to call.  Come home!!!!!!!!  I miss you.

Love,
[Freezer]


Subj: (no subject)
Date: 9/11/01 1:39:23 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From:  [Me]
To:    [Freezer]

Can you believe last night I wrote you I was panicking for some reason that I wasn’t going to make my way out of NY any time soon?!  And then, the email you sent about the end of the world?  Weird.  I wish I could talk to you.

Love,
[H]


Subj: (no subject)
Date: 9/11/01 2:59:13 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From:  [Me]
To:    [Freezer]

With the bloating and impending WWIII, I think I should just give up on my “life,” eat constantly, never shower or change clothes and become a permanent fixture on my dad’s couch, watching horrific news coverage while [‘Lil Bro] bounces up and down on my ribs…

Come and rescue me.  I feel like I’m going to be trapped in NY for-fucking-ever.  Don’t let me rot here without seeing you say “ha-ha” to my face as I take in my last breath!
 

Exchange after 9/11:


Subj: (no subject)
Date: 9/16/01 4:27:10 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From:  [Me]
To:    [Freezer]

Hey [F],

Once again I slept for something like 14 hours.  I need to realign my psyche, if that makes sense — I think in spite of myself I’m deeply affected by the circumstances in the city.  I told you that a sociologist on TV said it’s bad for children to be exposed to the same crisis over and over again.  Every time they see a replay of the tower collapsing, they think it’s new a building.  Anyway, they could stick me into that same category with the children — as far the events reaching into me psyche and grabbing hold…

I finally stopped watching the news yesterday.  But I go down the street, and people ask me for cigarettes — not homeless, but middle-aged business men — and I get paranoid.  Somehow they seem odd and suspicious, or they’re suspicious of me — I don’t really know how to articulate it, there’s an offness to these particular people.  Everything seems weird and altered and — here’s the part that freaks me out — TEMPORARY.

Don’t get me wrong, the city’s bustling with autumny activity, people go shopping and to restaurants, storefronts glisten with lights and merchandise.  Everything looks and acts as it should, as it used to, but I keep, picturing a missile thrashing it all right then and there.  I keep looking above and imagine the buildings are about to crumble down.

Remember my motorbike accident?  For some time after that, I kept thinking about how soft flesh is, and how surprising that we don’t just perish since we’re so weak and vulnerable compared to all those other things like germs and hard, sharp surfaces.

On the news they said there was going to be an increased number of people who have an irrational fear of flying.  I realized I was buying into some kind of fear myself, and then I made the decision to stop.  And go about my life.


Subj: (no subject)
Date: 9/16/01 5:51:43 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From:  [Me]
To:    [Freezer]

I feel a little better now — I went outside and it’s a beautiful day, so tranquil.  People about.  Normal NY activity.  I’m going to walk about 50 blocks to 26th street to see Minouche at her loft.  Shane’s gonna meet me there.

Do you remember me telling you in the past that I never watch the news?  Because it affects me so badly?  Local things, like babies abandoned, people dying in fires, etc. and the world news — always devastating in all the injustice that I can’t do anything about?  I sometimes thought I was just lazy and making excuses.

When I visited Iran about eight years ago, I couldn’t believe the conditions women lived under, with the covering up and policing of their every move.  I kept asking my dad, why doesn’t someone do something about it, why do women put up with it, why don’t they form underground rebel movements?  And then the thought crossed my mind that there I was, feeling protest, and that perhaps I should do something about it.  But it was just a thought, and when I came back to the states, I simply wrote a play about it — a young girl who visits Iran and stays behind to fight with the rebels.

My dad always used to say how lucky I was that we got out of Iran before everything went bad, that either I would have lost my mind or been killed or joined some militant anti-government group and ended up dead that way.


Subj: (no subject)
Date: 9/16/01 10:11:34 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From:  [Me]
To:    [Freezer]

I went downtown and had a nice time with Jean-Luc and Minouche, then Shane and I went for a good dinner in the village.  Now back home, I’m jumping out of my skin.  I just can’t seem to settle one way or another — at [Lana’s] it’s always too hectic, here it’s too quiet.

Have I always been this way?  I know, you’ve only known me a few months, but did I seem from the first so anguished and discontent?  Aren’t I always complaining?  It must be tiring to hear.  Wouldn’t have ordinarily pegged you for a patient person.  I don’t know, I’m losing it.  I think I’m just too damn idle.


Subj: (no subject)
Date: 9/16/01 11:40:14 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From:  [Me]
To:    [Freezer]

I’ve been thinking that if there were a world war, I’d want to go into the mountains or some desolate forest far away from it all.  But then, it just wouldn’t feel right to hide when most of the rest of the world suffers.  So I reached the conclusion, that if there were to be war and famine, in order to keep my sanity, I would have to enlist as some sort of army personnel (good thing about being a “little” woman is you don’t have to automatically kill people, you can do administrative or medic stuff) and that way live in the world as the world happens to be, instead of hiding in its periphery.  It wouldn’t be so much out of self-sacrifice, but self-preservation.  I wouldn’t know another way to mentally survive a global war other than joining it.  How could I really go about my business?  What do my petty dreams of making films matter when the world is in turmoil?

You must think that I’m utterly obsessed — I never thought I could be so profoundly affected by events that don’t ultimately have much to do with me.  But there it is.  I’m not interested in going to WTC and volunteering — they’ll stick me with giving food and water to the relief workers.   But if I knew there were people still alive, and they’d let me remove chunks of rubble, I’d do it.  I wish I had a paramedic license like you.

You say people are volunteering so much because they want to feel like they’re a part of something, but that’s not what it is.  It’s that they feel connected to the rest of the human race, and they can’t reconcile themselves to the fact that they’re lucky enough to have their homes and family when there are other people majorly suffering.  So they’ll give blood, or donations, or raise a flag, or light a candle (as empty as the last two are).  Some people need to make an outward show, hence candles, flags, sobbing on TV, general cheese, while others internalize it:  Support, contribution, anything to show — not to the world, but to themselves — that they live here too on the planet, and whether we like it or not, we’re all linked.

I guess this shit broke me just a little bit.  Everything seems cockeyed to me even if it all pretends to be normal.  On the other hand, I can’t believe that strange people are still strange in this city, and that swindlers still swindle, as if this should’ve modified everyone into something somber and solemn, like it did me.
 


~ Part of the A to Z Challenge ~
A post a day except Sunday for the month of April to cover topics beginning with each letter of the alphabet.

Cathartic Monkeyism returns in May.


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4 comments

  1. Excellent post GG. You really express the emotional impact of being in NYC on Sept 11. Thank you for sharing and for your emotional honesty.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. It must have been so surreal, and scary. Also here in Europe there was a feeling of insecurity, shock, confusion, alert. Everyone will remember where they were when news reached them. I was at work, my boyfriend called me to tell me about it (he then worked for the reservations of an airline, so he got immediately involved). It was only when I got home from work in the evening that I could see it on TV. It still took a while to understand that this had really happened.
    As it happens, our daughter (born in 2003) is right now preparing a presentation for school about 9/11. She picked this topic herself, because she wanted to learn more about it.

  3. lrconsiderer · · Reply

    Thank you – a vivid look at a time and place I was almost completely removed from.

    I can quite understand the (collective) desire to get out there and do something – anything – manual labour and moving rocks and making connections and being part of the scramble to make a tangible difference. Paperwork wouldn’t cut it.

    And fascinating, how there was the dual reality, as if something had phased over the usual reality, of swindlers and restaurateurs with a transfer of ‘otherness’.

    And yes. These events more than anything, for most people, help us realise we’re all in it together. We belong to one another.

  4. Thank you for sharing your emails with us. Such a sobering experience. I cannot imagine what it must have been like.

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