Friday, September 11, 2015

365 True Things: 166/9-11

Of course I remember 9/11. Who doesn't? (Well, okay, what American —and no doubt a few other nationalities—born before 1994 or so doesn't?)

I woke to the radio, Morning Edition on NPR. There was a report of "a plane" hitting "a tower" in New York. My sleepy brain pictured a small Cessna slamming into a water tower atop a skyscraper. It didn't occur to me that such an event being reported on national news would be . . . odd at best.

That morning was my morning to volunteer at the Hopkins Marine Station/Monterey Bay Aquarium Tuna Research and Conservation Center. Every week I helped the TRCC's manager, Paul Sund, keep the facility clean and the tunas (plus a few hammerhead sharks) well fed on squid. Mostly, I cleaned: vacuuming up the aftermath of the squid meals. Glamorous job not, but somebody had to do it.

And in a way, having the privilege of interacting with those huge, fast, beautiful fish—including some rare blue tunas—that were being studied by researcher Barbara Block and her team: it was special. Sacred, even. Eventually I graduated to feeding, rather than cleaning up after, the fish. Not just anybody gets to toss food into the mouths of tunas.

When I arrived at the ware-
house with its half dozen large circular tanks, Paul barely acknowledged me; he was plugged into some headphones. Also odd. He was normally a chatty fellow, and one reason I enjoyed my dirty work was the chance to talk with him about various and sundry. But I got down to work, donning my Wellies, hooking up the large siphon tube, climbing onto the catwalk to service the tanks. I kept glancing at Paul, wondering what was going on.

Eventually he looked up, his face stricken, and took off the headphones. "Another tower is down," he said.

I was confused. Another water tower? What?


Then he filled me in on all that had been going on. And finally, the hugeness of the events hit me.

The rest of the morning, we each did our job. Every so often Paul would update me on the ongoing happenings. I had the same heavy feeling I'd had in third grade when we received the news that President Kennedy had been shot. Disbelief; anger; sadness. Mostly disbelief.

I don't recall now if I was a cleaner-upper or a feeder that morning. I experienced a sense of peace watching the enormous fish swim round and round and round. I remember finding comfort in the repetitive tasks, including the final actions, which Paul and I did together, of washing everything down and squeegeeing the floor. It felt a bit like preparing a body. A mitzvah.

When I got home at noon, I was surprised to find David there—until I realized that yeah, of course: all military installations in the country would be closed, especially after the attack on the Pentagon. The Naval Postgraduate School remained shut down for several days.

We aren't TV watchers—even though we did at that time have cable—and it never occurred to us that we could see actual footage of the Twin Towers toppling down, of the mayhem. My mind therefore remains full of still images of that awful event. I had a picture on my wall of a flag and the scorched remnants of the World Trade Center for many years; I may still have the picture, tucked into a folder.

The one thing that gave me hope afterward was how the world seemed to rally—against bigotry and hatred, and for freedom. That disintegrated pretty quickly as Bush and his cabal began to march toward war (and I, in turn, marched in my first antiwar rally). And as a result, in part, the world is worse off now than it was before 9/11. Tragically.

As I wrote about in April, 9/11 got me thinking about what I would regret not having done, and I came up with the wacky idea of going dogsledding. A friend of mine got his first Search & Rescue dog, Daisy ☚, thanks to 9/11. They deployed to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

I don't know what other people did, if anything, as a result of 9/11. What did you do? I'd love to know.

1 comment:

  1. that feeling afterwards.. it almost felt magical ( not the right word at all ) .. but there was a feeling of unity that ive not ever felt here before.
    I was layed off from my job in nyc about 5 mos prior to 9/11 . . that was the last time i worked in the city.
    back to your question - what did i do ..after the anger, i hope I became more open. The hatred that came from that was / is horrible.......