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Monday, September 12, 2011

Second Draft

9/11/2011

People who never saw the Towers love them. Two striped oblong boxes, with foundations bending and sweeping like cathedral windows, at the end of Manhattan.

Manhattan's underbite. Manhattan's fangs.

The buildings were ugly in the sunlight. Silver and glass and not much to look at. At night, though, those fangs were stunning. Those two oblong buildings lit up the water at the end of the island in yellow checkerboard, could be seen for miles both from land and air. The first time I flew into New York, I had Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' playing thru my headphones and the WTC buildings filling my window. 'Rhapsody in Blue,' and all I could see were the golden windows of those buildings.

"If you're on the right side of the cabin," the pilot told us over the loudspeakers, "you'll see Lady Liberty." And everyone craned their neck to take a gander at the chick with the torch.

The pilot didn't tell those on the left side of the plane what they'd see, which was the WTC. Which is what I saw. Gershwin in my ears and those golden windows in my eyes and everyone else on the plane trying look up Lady Liberty's dress.

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The day it happened, I was awake before Greg. Preparing for class. Had just gotten back from yet another trip to NYC. I was so recently arrived back in AL from NY that I was pulling clothes out of a suitcase in order to dress for the day.

After pulling on a t-shirt and skimming the news on the Drudge Report, I went into our dark bedroom. I sat down on the bed beside Greg, who was sleeping. I hesitated, then put my hand on his shoulder, which was rising and falling with his breath. I shook the shoulder gently until I heard this: "Muuuh. Whaaa"

"Sweetie," I said to Greg. "Wake up. We're under attack."

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Here's what Greg thought when I said that we were under attack: Nuclear War.

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Here's what I thought when I said that we were under attack: Oh christ oh god oh I love you so much please see this with me to make me not crazy because I need someone else to see this.

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Today was the 10th anniversary of the time I shook Greg's shoulder and informed him of just how drastically the world had changed. Not that the world should have changed so drastically. What happened 10 years ago was awful. What happened 10 years ago was... fill in the blanks. But what happened 10 years ago... doesn't fill in the blanks. Americans took the attack so personally that they came to think of themselves as one person and were quite happy to go along, go along, go along.

Americans slapped magnetic flags onto the backs of their SUVs, renamed French fries 'freedom' fries, and attacked other Americans for having opinions not in line with the President.

Go along, go along, go along.

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Greg, shirtless, stumbled into our livingroom that day, and turned on the television (I hadn't bothered to turn on the tv; the internet was proof enough for me). Live, we watched the south tower of the WTC, where I had been a few days before, collapse. We watched lower Manhattan become dark, enclosed in smooth, caustic smoke.

Greg, shirtless, put a hand to his mouth and sank to his knees.

I suspect there were a lot of Americans assuming the same position as Greg. A hand covering a gape, both knees on the carpet.

I stood behind him and did the only thing I knew to do. I rubbed his naked shoulders.

"There are people there today," I said.

"I know."

And there was still a tower left. There was a tower remaining. It was leaking smoke into the air over Manhattan like a severed arm leaking blood into water. Greg had already fallen to his knees--how much lower could he fall?

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Today, Greg woke me up. He put his hand on my naked shoulder and gently shook until I said, "Muuuh. Whaaaa."

"Sweetie," Greg said, "you're under Waf attack." Then our dog, Waffles, jumped on me. Waf licked my face. He nuzzled my chin. He snuffled, he wagged, he shook.

I giggled. Greg giggled. Then G and I  discussed 10 years earlier, and how I'd awakened Greg with a gentile shake and news of an attack.

"You said that they'd hit the Pentagon and New York," Greg reminded me. "All I could think was that there'd been a nuclear bomb."

"No," I said. "No bombs."

"True. We'd use the bombs. They had the planes."

"Imagine Herve Villechaize yelling that," I said.

"Imagine him yelling this," Greg said, and picked Waffles up. Lifted Waf high above me. Waffles shook his legs at me. Waf's ears flew out from his head like the wings of a plane. Greg dropped Waffles, gently, onto my chest. "The Waf," Greg said. "The Waf."

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On 9/8/2001, I was in the air like Waffles 10 years later, sailing at the mercy of a pilot and leaving NYC. When approaching the city I'd listened to Gershwin. When leaving it, I listened to Sondheim. I arrived at night, left by day, and the last time I saw those ugly buildings this lyric was playing: "Stop worrying where you're going/move on."

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