Tuesday, September 11, 2007


When the attacks happened, I was at home in the Pacific Northwest, sleeping. September 11, 2001 was a day I had been looking forward to and had marked on my calendar because it was the day that Bob Dylan's album "Love and Theft" was going to be released. For many years, my days off had been Tuesday and Wednesday. I worked until 2:00 in the morning and usually slept until noon. When I woke up half way through the day on September 11, I had a phone message from a friend. She said, "You might want to turn your television on. Today is a sad day for our country." I don't have cable service but, at that time, for some unknown reason I had been able to pick up the network stations and a few cable stations. For the next several hours I watched in shock at the surreal footage of two planes flying into the towers over and over and over again. I remembered standing at the foot of one of the towers in 1982 with my mother and father and looking up at the impossibly tall building and then taking the elevator to the top where there was a Rodin sculpture exhibit which was closed, although the "The Thinker" was visible from where we stood at the entry to the exhibit. Late in the afternoon I went out to get some groceries and to buy "Love and Theft." Everyone I saw looked fragile, as if some of the blood had been drained out of them. When I got home, what a shock to hear Bob Dylan singing these words in the song titled "Mississippi": "Every step of the way we walk the line Your days are numbered, so are mine . . ." "Sky full of fire, pain pourin' down . . . " A few days later I learned that a friend with PTSD from the war in Vietnam had been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer and that he had three months to live. He said that he felt like his body was one of the two towers. I flew to California from Washington State to visit him two weeks later. The atmosphere in the airports and planes was extraordinarily subdued. My experience was that everyone appeared to be kinder than usual. How do I feel about it all now? The same way I did during the war in Vietnam. On a daily basis, I feel a measurable level of sorrow, of which I now understand anger is a part. Along with countless others, I have a clinical diagnosis of PTSD. Mine dates back to the five months after my friend returned from the war in Vietnam. My friend is still alive. All lives are a mysterious gift. I wrote this in response to robin andrea at Dharma Bums who asked these questions a few days ago. Where were you that day, and how do you feel about it all now? As one of the commenters, wren, at Dharma Bums wrote, " . . . may all those who mourn be comforted." ("Witness with Courage," pastel image, 1984, drawn by am)


robin andrea said...

I am struck by what you noticed-- that everyone seemed fragile. Yes, I saw that too, but did not remember until I read your words. Fragile and kinder. Thank you for writing this, am. Your perceptions and Dylan's prescience are quite moving.

kathy a. said...

lovely post. and robin is right about your observation, everyone was fragile and kinder.

Loren said...

It's almost as if it's the realization of our common suffering is what most ties us together, isn't it?

Those of us who fought together in Vietnam often share a bond that transcends everyday differences that would drive most people apart.

Too bad that it takes that kind of tragedy to make us treat each other more kindly.