My 9/11

AS I OFTEN do on this day, I here post a link to my story of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York, one of nine million stories from that day:

My story is not heroic. I saved no one on that day. It is not tragic. I lost no one.

The story I published then is incomplete in many ways. When September 11th happened, I was newly in love with a married woman who was leaving her husband. To be with her, I was leaving my girlfriend of six years. See? Not heroic at all.

The relationship with my girlfriend had been unhappy for years, but I still felt guilty leaving her. As partial penance, I let her stay in my apartment (“our” apartment) while I bunked in a tiny dump above a dive bar. The floor was crooked and the air always smelled like pierogies.

On September 11th, my new girlfriend, the soon-to-be-unmarried lady, was standing on Fifth Avenue when she saw smoke from the impact of the second plane. She was a mile north of the World Trade Center but could still see the smoke. Everyone could see it. Everyone but me, freelancing via modem in the pierogi-smelling fuckpad. The door opened, and there was my new girlfriend, looking stunned. “You don’t know,” she said.

I called my old girlfriend to warn her not to go downtown. She asked why I was crying.

I was crying for her, because I’d left her alone in a suddenly frightening world. Crying for the people in the World Trade Center. We didn’t have any details yet, but it was clear that many people had died. Crying, had I known it, for the thousands more who would die in the wars that were born on that day.

There was no TV and no internet. It was days before I could publish the incomplete story I linked to at the beginning of this memoir. Even when there was internet access again, I could not tell the parts of the story I am telling now. I could not tell them for years.

There it is. Like something out of Hollywood. Horrifying historic events as backdrop to a romantic drama. I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

Everything changes, but, for the living, life goes on. My then-new-girlfriend, my fellow 9/11 PTS victim, is now the mother of my child, and my ex-wife. This morning I walked my daughter to school, then headed to the gym, where I warmed up on a treadmill. Above the treadmill were TVs, with the sound off. On the TV I watched, the names of the 9/11 dead were being read aloud in alphabetical order. They were still on B when I finished my workout. The other TV was showing ESPN, and the gym member on the treadmill next to me was watching that instead of the ceremony.