I wrote this essay six years ago for the anniversary of 9/11. After re-reading it, what surprises me is I still believe my last sentence.
I can't believe it will be a year since September eleventh. Sometimes it feels like it happened very long ago, sometimes it still feels so recent. I've been thinking about last fall-how everything changed. That day I was supposed to clean under my sink and sing along to do-wop songs as I cleaned. Instead I spent it watching CNN wondering how in the world this happened.
I kept wanting it to be a bad movie with Bruce Willis and Tea Leoni, in the movie they find out about what was going to happen before hand and they go to the airplanes and save everyone's lives. Good old Bruce finds Osama bin Laden, they have a terrible fight, it ends with Bruce kicking old Osama off a plane and we have a slow motion shot of Osama yelling, then Bruce looks at him with a cocky expression, just feeling a tad superior because hey, he did save thousands of people, and his line would be something patriotic like: "Don't Mess with the US."
But Bruce didn't come. I watched people with dazed faces wander the streets in New York. I e-mailed my mother to make sure everything is okay at her work. I looked at the list of people that have died. Familiar names pop out: Barbara Olson who was on CNN. David Angell the producer of Frasier. Barry Berenson, an actress, the widow of Anthony Perkins and sister of Marissa. Juliana McCourt, four years old.
I wasn't working at the time, so I watched too much TV. Lifetime showed reruns of Designing Women, and on QVC they are promoting Big Bold Gold. I was in awe of the QVC hosts. How do they stay so cheerful when everything is falling apart? How do they make small chitchat with the people who buy bracelets, rings?
Three days after it happened I couldn't take it anymore. I grabbed my wallet and house keys and I walked to Borders. Outside, everything was muted; the kids weren't yelling at each other after school, the ice cream man wasn't out. Hardly any cars were on the road. The only giveaway that something happened is that all the flags were half-mast, and even they looked defeated.
I went in Borders, looking for something lightweight to read. I looked though a coffee table book about a dog named Sweetie. I looked for the People magazine that had the best and worst dressed celebrities on it. I didn't want to think about falling bodies from buildings, Laura Bush in a bunker. I wanted to make fun of the celebrities and their designer outfits.
After a while, I stood up and wandered over by the listening stations. It was quiet over there; no one was listening to any music. I went to the Eva Cassidy station and I selected her album Songbird. The first song came up, her amazing cover of Sting's Fields of Gold.
It was a song I knew well; I owned the CD. But as I heard Cassidy's beautiful voice, belting out Sting in such a beautiful, poetic way, I got teary. When I was listening to the bridge of the song, the quiet guitar strings, that's when I started to cry. I was sobbing. People were looking at me but I didn't care. I wasn't even sure why I was crying. Maybe it was because I felt so overwhelmed about what happened. Maybe it was because I suddenly felt so grateful for everything in my life. Okay, I'm not working. But I received a great severance package, and I still have insurance. I have healthy parents, parents I'm close to. I have good friends who care for me and we've been calling and e-mailing each other all day. Why is it that tragedy makes you stop to see everything that is good in your life?
People were being so kind to each other, giving blood, helping each other out. But soon things would go back to normal and we'd go about our business. I didn't want to go back to normal. I don't know what normal is anymore.
I took off the headphones and wiped my eyes with my hand. Somehow, we'll get through this. Somehow, we will cope. We will never forget what happened. But somehow, we'll get by. We will fight and disagree with other. But if we're lucky maybe we can work together to rebuild. Maybe we can create a new type of normal. And you know what? I still believe that.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries