glamorous Grief

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.

By L. Jeffrey Zeldman

“King of Web Standards”—Bloomberg Businessweek. Author, Designer, Founder. Employer Brand at Automattic. Publisher, & Ava’s dad. Pete’s brother (RIP). He/him.