Last Tuesday at about this time, nine a.m., the first rumors were starting. I was keying orders and no one was really paying any attention.
Maybe it was ten after nine when the news came out and the radio came on and we all fell a very different quality of silent than we had been before. We all stared and stared at each other for a few minutes. Then we started looking down instead. My lips and ears were buzzing and cold, like a nerve had been pinched off somewhere, and it would not surprise me if it had.
Maybe it was about then that I started to visibly shake.
By ten I had run out onto the front steps because I could not be in the building anymore. I stayed for about three minutes. I didn't sit down. I was watching all the people walk across the diag to class, totally unaware of what was going on, no ties to the outside world, in the way of many college students. Then it was either go back inside or start yelling.
I started getting email messages from the provost. They used all the right buzzwords: "tragedy", "horrific", "classes cancelled". I was emailing everyone I know. My words were more like: "I CAN'T FIND ANYONE WHERE ARE YOU??"
I could not process and tried to sit at my desk and calm down and calm down.
I knew that I knew people in New York, but I couldn't remember who they were. I couldn't remember any email addresses, and I was at work, and their addresses were at home. I went and found Siobhan's site but couldn't find her email listed, so I guessed. It was right, but I couldn't remember any others until I came home four hours later.
I know quite well what was wrong with me, but that doesn't make it better.
John came at 12:15 and we talked for ten minutes and no one broke down but there was finally someone there not from my office, the office I started working in two weeks ago today. So there was someone I knew and someone I had contacted and someone was there besides me.
Everyone tried very hard to make their heads work all afternoon. I wore my jacket the whole time. I couldn't make any attempt to get warm.
I left at three never having taken lunch, found Isaac and John and Bethany. We went and ate, since it was the best thing to do, and no one had eaten all day, and Bethany only wanted espresso, and I really didn't want anything, I just wanted to go home, and we listened to the tv in the next room of the restaurant blaring the same soundbites over and over and over.
At home we all went to sleep. It was maybe five. I fell asleep on the couch suddenly and without warning, woke up ten minutes later asking what happened. It was a self-defense mechanism. Too much was going on and the body decided to shut down. This happened to several of us.
I had lots of alcohol and went to bed too late.
In the morning I was an hour late to work and my supervisor kept asking if I was ok. And there were wax drippings all over the diag from the vigil the night before, and sorority girls taking donations for the Red Cross with big white buckets, and a blood drive set up. And no one was talking. And F-16s flew overhead at strategic intervals. And the flag was at half-mast.
And it is a week later, and everyone seems to want to be normal, or look it, and I don't know who is succeeding or who is fooling themself.
No one I knew died. I was in Michigan, a thousand miles away, and I still am. I have never been to New York. I have never been to Washington D.C.
I have never been to New York and as such cannot actually comprehend what happened. I have movies and imagination and pictures in magazines to go on, and that's all. I cannot wrap my head around the magnitude of this, because I cannot conceive of it at all.
I read weblogs and journals and the New Yorker and hear people echoing in stairwells in my head and go to Borders to buy My Bloody Valentine and lock myself in the attic listening for half the night. I get email from the people I know in New York, people I have never met, who I only know online. I hear where they were and what they heard and what they saw and what they see. I can't see it.