It's impossible to get through this week without hearing the cries and screams of the office workers who saw the Towers crashing, those on the ground who witnessed their fall, their breathless running to get away, the confusion, the chaos, the news commentary which was so pitifully meager—but then again, what words could have described what they were seeing? Every time I hear that clip on the radio of the towers falling, my stomach clenches, remembering that morning.
Tom had gotten up early for work; around 6:15 he was shaking me awake; I called L to turn on the TV and then hung up to watch what was unfolding. As the morning progressed, we listened to news reports that couldn't describe what was happening because there are no words for the unthinkable. I called my friends in NYC but couldn't get through. I woke up my children, unsure if I should take them to school. Time had thickened with the unknown and the shock.
I drove my son to school without incident but on the way back as I merged onto Eagle Rock Blvd., I saw six men in a foreign car, crammed together, shoulder to shoulder. What caught my attention was that all six men had pointy heads like the Conehead family on Saturday Night Live. I stepped on the gas to see if I could get closer to clarify: six, slightly stooped men wearing hats perhaps, pressed against the roof of their car. But no matter how fast I drove I couldn't keep up with them. They couldn't be cone heads, I reasoned, but I knew instinctively they weren't wearing hats.
Later, I went swimming at the Aquatic Center, keeping my head under water as long as I could to block out the images of planes crashing into towers. The sky was bright blue, nothing was in it. Children were swimming, making loud noises and acting like children do. I swam and swam but I kept hearing the roar of an airplane engine, even under water; I checked above me to see if a plane was near, but there was nothing, nothing in the clear blue sky that day.
I think for many of us on that Tuesday, and for many days, weeks and months after, we kept looking up.