On 11 September 2001, over a span of a few hours, I wrote down some thoughts and reactions to what was going on. I read it every year. It feels important to do that. I haven't changed or omitted anything. That feels important, too. Here's what I wrote:
I am disconnected, today. It is the way I have always felt while watching disasters unfold on television, or even across a room. I become the observer and introspector at the same time. I become self-conscious. I maintain a calm exterior, my mind stops working smoothly. In fits and jerks, I move between the inner world and the outer, but there is no longer the feeling (illusion?) of connection between them.
Outside, people are confused, in disbelief, wonderment. Senses widen, experience deepens. Not for me. I watch from behind the one-way mirror of my eyes. Events occur, and I am in disbelief, but this is a secondary emotion. Most of all I feel disconnected from the reality of the situation. I am no longer a part of the world I live in; I am an observer. Impotent.
Murmers of a distantly religious nature fill the air. "God." I cannot tell if they are asking or stating a fact. No one seems to accuse Him.
As each new development breaks, bundles of intent onlookers clump near information outlets--television, radio, internet. The internet is clogged. The television signal is scratchy. No on knows anything, but the cameras roll and the people talk. 8:45AM EST, a small plane crashes into the World Trade Center. Half an hour later, while we are listening to the first rumors of this first incident, a passenger jet--an American 767 hijacked on its way from Boston to somewhere or somewhere to Boston--explodes into the other tower on live television. The explosion, recorded from such a distance, is silent. I am surprised at how movie-like the explosion seems. I had always assumed such things were exaggerated for effect.
People are indecisive. Myself included. None of us are sure whether to watch or get back to work. We waver between. More rumors float about: a plane has crashed into the Pentagon building. A fire burns in the nation's Mall. The Whitehouse evacuated; the President speaks from an elementary school in Florida.
The nation reels from the blow. All air travel comes to a halt. Tunnels in and out of New York are closed down. The Sears and other towers are evacuated. One of the towers collapses, the smoke too thick to pierce with distant cameras. Thousands had already been reported injured. Surely that number has grown. Trading stops on Wall Street. Markets closed.
It has been over an hour now. The news has settled slightly; people begin to digest, to think again. Theories sprout. Reactionary political statements are made.
The notion of going to war seems obvious to some, oddly distant and unlikely to me.
Strikes, actions, bombing--yes. But war? With whom? Bin Laden? Palestine? Terrorism itself?
I read: the second tower has collapsed. Another hijacked plane flies toward DC from the south. Will we shoot it down?
Another plane crashes 80 miles outside of Pittsburgh. A Palestinian Liberation group takes credit.
What the hell is going on?
An hour of conscious attempt to return to work, in addition to the conscious attempt to isolate myself from news outlets, has resulted not in a feeling of normalcy but in a feeling of inadequacy. I cannot ignore the situation--to do so simply feels wrong. At the same time, I have a responsibility to remain on task. And I cannot possibly be of any help to the situation, or to the gossip circles that coalesce so easily today.
Why is this violence so inevitable? Why does talking never seem to work? How is it that the perpetrators believe these acts of terrorism could aid their cause? Are these political acts? Spiritual? Symbolic? Is there a difference?