On that singular day

I saw Greg Louganis dive in St. Louis
in 1984. Oh, the way he folded and
unfolded in the air. We all gasped
when he split the surface and disappeared.
But he rose up in a shimmering swath
of bubbles, unbounded joy.

Seventeen years later, a man steps out
through the lattice of a skyscraper and
folds himself into a breathtaking pike.
An anonymous diver, abandoning his
day job. Maybe you’ve seen the
photograph? A single body falling, white
oxford full and fluttering, like a peony,
blowsy, on that singular day.

–“The Diver,” Christine Hartzler

Today I am in my late twenties again.

Today I am waking up early in my town in the American southwest to the sound of people shouting on my apartment complex balcony. It is a day I can sleep in. I am working the late shift. I am not pleased to wake up to people shouting this early in the morning. I go out on the balcony and glare at them. They don’t seem to notice. Or care. Even though I’m in my pajamas and my hair is quite fearsome.

Today I am realizing there’s no point in going back to sleep and I might as well run some errands since I have the morning free.

Today I get ready without turning on the television or the radio.

Today I run errands while listening to a tape I have in the car. It’s a Hole kind of day. Courtney Love screams me around town.

Today I still don’t turn on the radio.

Today I get to my old job to help out a little since I’m up early. It is a thing I do, sometimes.

Today I walk in the door and there are people in a tangled knot around the small television in the lobby. The sound is low. No one’s at the front desk.

Today I ask one of my old coworkers what was going on.

Today she turns to me and says, “Two planes flew into the World Trade Center” and her eyes are holes in her face.

Today I ask her, “An accident? There was an accident?”

Today she says, “No. No, Amy, I don’t think so. I think it was on purpose.”

Today I stand in a crowd of people, strangers and friends alike, and we are all as one. Today we watch the television in the lobby and it grows to the size of a movie screen. Today we watch the towers fall. Today we watch news reports come in about the Pentagon. Today we watch news reports come in about a field in Pennsylvania.

Today our hands are over our eyes and our mouths. Today we are sobbing but not making a sound. Today we are praying. Today we are smelling autumn coming in through the propped-open doors of the lobby and we are running through the list of people we know in New York City and we are wondering if they also smelled this autumn morning and we are thinking, were they there? Oh, please, oh, no, oh, God, were they there?

Today I go broken and empty to my afternoon shift at work. My coworker is from Pennsylvania. I am from New York. We are barely holding it together. We are inches from screaming. We are being held together with fraying rubber bands and sheer adrenaline.

Today our boss decides we are not paying enough attention to our job and makes us turn off the television that presides with its cold unfeeling stare over the lobby.

Today we take turns shaking and vomiting and weeping in the bathroom where the clients and our boss can’t see us.

Today I get home from work and turn on the television and watch the ticker of the dead crawl along the bottom of the screen. The channel I’m watching tells the ages of those on the planes. One of the dead is just a baby. I’m having trouble breathing. Functioning. I’m watching the towers fall on endless repeat. I’m watching men leap from windows with a sort of corrupted grace. I am watching survivors painted gray with ashes stream over and over from the city I love so much. I am shaking. I am curled upon myself like a lost child. I am trying to count the dead in the ticker and I keep losing count and it seems very important, somehow, that I know how many of them there were. That each of them are counted. That each of them get given a name; that each of them get given their due.

Today, when my next-door-neighbor comes home, she asks me how I am.

Today, I tell her, “I don’t want to live in this world right now. The good got lost today.”

Today I live all of this all over again. Today and next year and the year after that; every today, I am the person I was on that day.

Today the towers fall, and they fall, and they fall; every today they fall.

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About lucysfootball

I'm not the girl with the most cake. Someday. SOMEDAY. View all posts by lucysfootball

25 responses to “On that singular day

  • ScorpionGlow

    I was sitting here thinking the same thing. That’s I’m reliving my emotions of that day. It’s a lot to take in.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      I read a post today where someone was of the opinion they couldn’t wait until this became “just another day in the fall again.”

      I understand. Because it is a lot to take in; it’s a lot of emotions to process on a yearly basis. But it’s also not something I want to forget. I don’t ever want to wake up today and not remember what day this is. I think it’s important, for a lot of reasons, that we do allow ourselves to remember this.

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      • ScorpionGlow

        I wholeheartedly concur.

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      • poetlandia

        For those of us old enough to remember, this will never be “just another day in the fall again”. It is for the next generation, the ones too young or born after this, for that to come to pass.

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        • lucysfootball

          The whole post made me sad. I was so hoping everyone didn’t feel that way, that everyone didn’t just want to go back to the way things were, and just forget that day, just sweep it under the rug as “just one of those things.” Sometimes we need to honor those things. Otherwise…did we learn anything? Can we forget all the dead that easily?

          Sad. Just so, so sad.

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          • poetlandia

            I think of Alice Walker talking about why she writes. And she said that there may be things that happen that you cannot do anything about. But you can be a witness, not turn away from the painful or difficult, and witness. So those going through the hard things are not going through them alone. Whether they know it or not.

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  • Gigi

    And I’m crying. Again. Just like I did on that day.

    What is wrong with the world? Seriously.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      I cried all while I was writing it…so we’re even, I suppose.

      The world is full of hate. But also love. It’s a strange place, this world. It’s hard to be here, sometimes, isn’t it?

      Like

  • galinthegreyhat

    Wow, thank you for sharing this. Thank you, thank you!

    Like

  • Andreas Heinakroon

    I think we all remember where we were and what we were doing that day. Big tragic events etch themselves into our minds even if we don’t witness them ourselves. And of course with television we sort of do witness them. Coming home after work and switching on the telly and there’s Manhattan covered in smoke. And the endless reruns.

    I recall watching one of the documentaries a few years back, and it was very moving. One thing that stuck with me in particular: all the firemen have motion detection alarms on their backpacks that goes off if the fireman is still for more than 30 seconds. This is to help finding fallen firemen in a building on fire. And the scene was immediately after the fall of the South Tower. Ruble everywhere. Dust slowly settling. And those motion detection alarms starting to go off, one after the other. “Fallen fireman.” “Fallen fireman.” “Fallen fireman.” The air was filled with those little automatic whistles. That’s when the enormity of it all really hit home, how many people who had actually died.

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    • lucysfootball

      Oh, Andreas. That’s heartbreaking. I haven’t been able to watch any of the documentaries. I watched the movie about the Pennsylvania flight; I was a wreck, and it was a dramatization. My roommate and I didn’t handle it well. I think she actually might have left the room before it was done.

      I have trouble with documentaries about tragedies such as this one, and this one seems more personal. I haven’t been able to bring myself to visit the memorial, either. Every time I visit the City, I think about it. I know I should. And every time, I don’t. I don’t know that I can. Not even now.

      Like

  • b.h.quinn

    This was a really eloquent way of expressing the disbelief, anger and fear that came with the September 11th attacks.

    Every year I mean to write something about my experiences on that day, but I still haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. It was an abrupt, almost physically visible end to my childhood innocence and it’s still difficult to look back at it, which is a bit unusual since I talk about it every year to my mum’s middle schoolers. It’s strange to me that they don’t understand what it was like and why it’s so important. It’s weird that they seem so young and innocent to me even though I was their age when it happened.

    I was 11 when the attacks took place, and I was stuck in an unusual place. Being in Hawaii, we tend to feel a little disconnected from the rest of the country, but my family is from the East Coast and I have relatives who are police officers and firefighters from Maine down to Virginia. My boyfriend (friend at the time) was in New York that day and I spent most of the time terrified that something had happened; he was supposed to have been at the WTC, but they’d stopped for a late breakfast. However, in Hawaii we do study the Pearl Harbor attacks and many of my friends were military children, so we were aware that this could mean war.

    They say that every generation has at least one moment where everyone remembers exactly where they were when they found out about it, one that grows to define them. This is one of ours.

    Once again, that was a very touching post.

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    • lucysfootball

      Thank you. You’re right; there’s not one of us who doesn’t remember exactly what we were doing, where we were, how the day progressed. It’s burned into our memories now, isn’t it?

      I’m glad you’re telling the students about it, and they’re hearing about it from someone who was their age when it happened. I think that’s important.

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      • b.h.quinn

        My mum started when she heard one of the kids say that we call “911” for emergencies because of 9/11, and she realized that they’d been toddlers when the attacks happened. It’s not really talked about in schools (at least not the ones I’m familiar with here), and we run the risk of the younger generation forgetting what happened.

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  • poetlandia

    I was living in Phoenix. I remember so much about this and the days after it. I worked on Wall Street, back when I was in my twenties and living in NYC. I knew if I didn’t know the individuals, I still knew them, if that makes sense.

    One of my exes, my very first girlfriend, who I will always love with her corner of my heart, worked in the towers. On Sept. 11th, she was moving offices, so she went to work late. Just in time to watch a plane hit her office building. On this day, she was supposed to be moving to an office with windows, because she had just been promoted. Normally, she would have been in the office very, very early.

    That morning, I thought I had woken up to watch her die. I was spared. I never forget that many people weren’t. I finally reached her 48 hours later.

    In October, I moved up to Sedona.

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