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Then and Now

I imagine in my mind a play that asks two questions: The first, Where were you on September 11, 2001? And from every part of the theater, people young and old answer. I was in school. I was just getting out of the shower. I was landing at O'Hare. I was going to work. I was so little I don't remember. I was buying coffee and a croissant. I was getting my teeth cleaned. I was there at the World Trade Center. And then comes the second question: Where are you now as the 8th anniversary draws close?

Where am I anyway? I'm in Brooklyn, so I'm around the World Trade Center site a lot — my tailor is there, a great Cuban restaurant is there, Century 21 is across the street. It feels normal, but not really. Every time I get close to Church St. the heaviness rushes back at me. When I was two my grandfather died and I announced, "The house is sad." That's how I feel on Church St. — this lingering, palpable sadness.

I don't think about the event every hour the way I did eight years ago. I'm not scared to take the subway anymore, not afraid to fly, I don't pause and look at candles on doorsteps because there aren't any. I don't need to see large armed men with dogs at the airport to feel safe.

My husband knew twelve people who died in the attacks and he could have been one of them. Evan had been invited to the breakfast at Windows on the World; he didn't go because we were moving. I remember trying to unpack. I was colossally scared. I couldn't focus, couldn't' process. I wrote what I called "my sheet of clarity". It had things I needed to do each day, it had things I knew, but needed to remember, like, My husband loves me. My daughter loves me. God hasn't gone away. My blood type is B. It didn't take long for me to lose the sheet. I searched for it everywhere, upended pillows, dug through boxes. I was so upset. "I've lost my sheet of clarity!" I wailed to my daughter. Back then, clarity was holding onto something, writing it down so I wouldn't forget. Back then, laughter seemed inappropriate against the backdrop of so much pain. 

That's where I was, but I'm not there now. Still, where I was has marked me like a fossilized leaf imprinted on rock. 

This year I won't watch the 24/7 news shows. I won't watch the images of the towers falling. I will light a candle. I will have more sugar than I should. I will pray, and probably for a few moments, I will cry. I will remind myself that I have it easy and so many still ache for loved ones lost. I will contemplate the day when so much of me and the world changed, and remember how far we've come. 


Please visit my Teaching 9-11 web page: http://joanbauer.test/teaching-9-11.html

Here's a photo of me and Sonny. I visited his school on 9/11/2008 as part of the day of service.

Joan Baur working on art on 911