Thursday, September 11, 2008

Out of a clear blue sky

Today it rains drowsily.

Seven years ago, on a clear day, when the air was crisper than I had seen it in years, I was awakened from a sound slumber by an attack on our country. My television speaker kept repeating, in Katie Couric's voice, "Oh my god. Oh my god." I rolled over to see what the cameras saw, and, from that day forth, my Tuesdays will ever be uneasy.

Two airplanes had crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in downtown New York City.

No, wait. That's not quite what happened. That's just the perception of the moment. What really happened was that a handful of men from foreign lands, with a pseudo-religious agenda, had flown them into the buildings, murdering everybody on their respective airplanes and nearly three thousand others. Two other airplanes had been hijacked, as well; one of them flown into the side of the Pentagon, the other, by best estimate, seized back again by passengers and flown into the ground so that it could not harm any other innocents.

Doubtless anybody with access to modern information media will have heard the details of those stories repeated (some will say ad nauseam). I've seen enough replays of events myself that, were I to give birth at this late date, I suspect the images would be imprinted in the genetic code of my child.

What haunts me most is still that crystal blue sky. Over my head, as I walked to my parents' house, was an uninterrupted dome of azure: there were no clouds, no vapor trails, no hint of anything but eternity. The day was perfect -- but for that one glaring flaw.

What made matters worse was that the government grounded all aircraft other than the President's, so the sky remained clear and unmarked for the entire of the day. I tried to put a positive slant on the picture in my head: just think, it looks exactly the way it would have when the pioneers settled here, I told myself. I'm seeing something unique in this day and age of world travel, I prayed.

They say Air Force One flew directly over our town, that afternoon. I wasn't outside to see it. I had to stop looking at the skies long before that hour. The glare of perfection burned into my soul, the contradiction between it and the savagery of man, on our lands, too great that I hid from it all.

Grief still wells up in me this morning as the rains pool on the sidewalk outside. The shock is faded, but the sorrow remains, sometimes evaporating a little, but ever refreshed by the mournful cry of the city's sirens, by the rain of days' reminders.

And for all that, resting inside the pool of sorrow is stone cold fury. Before the first September of our new century, I could not have imagined my heart could hold space for so much of both at the same time. On the afternoon of the eleventh day, that month, I was held by fear as well; fear of further attack, fear for my family who were near the assault in the nation's capital, an unnamed fear of all the other unknowns. Today, the fear is gone. All else remains.

And I am grateful for the rains.

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