The sky. The most beautiful blue. A clear blue sky. A perfect day.
Parvathy calls. We are under attack. Hysteria. She is going to her daughter’s house. It’s war!
I turn on NY1.
Dad calls. I guess you aren’t going to work today. I don’t know. There’s fires down there.
What the hell is going on?
I see the first one fall. I reach out and scream. ‘No!’ as if somehow my hands could hold it up. Shock. How could a whole building collapse with all those people in it. Just tumble down?
My niece emails me. 12 minutes after the fall. Am I ok? (How did she know? It had to be after midnight there – she’s 11 – what’s she doing up?) I flew in the night before. She is worried I am still on a plane.
She is among the first to check in. Many more will follow. I let her know: I’m ok. I Love you. My sister comes online and stays there with me.
The second one comes down.
I go down to Shawn’s apartment. Everyone is there, glued to the news. He says come in, don’t be alone. I don’t want to watch anymore. I only want to know they’re all alright. NY1 said give blood. I’m going. I don’t want to be with people, now.
I walk to St. Vincent’s on 13th. It’s only 7 blocks from my apartment. There is a plume of black smoke from downtown where the towers used to fill the end of 7th Avenue.
And a clear blue sky above.
I walk against the masses of people moving uptown covered in what looks like baby powder and bits of paper. Someone is yelling on a megaphone: Stay away from downtown. Keep walking uptown! No cars at all.
A crowd has gathered at the corner. They must have seen NY1. They line up to give blood in total silence. We are soon sent away. There is no need for more blood.
Doctors and nurses and stretchers fill 7th Avenue outside St. Vincents. An eerie silence in spite of the mass movement of people. No casualties come. Nobody pulled out. They wait. But it is only injuries of the rescue workers who survived. No rescue.
A clear blue sky.
Burning. A smell like melted plastic.
I call Terrence several times until I get through. His brother answers and tells me he’s already gone to work – he was on a subway downtown. I say I am ok, I hadn’t been downtown yet and to ask him to call me when he gets home. I don’t hear from him for another two days – he never gets the message. The lines are impossible to get through.
For the first two nights, we both think the other is lost.
I email B-. She comes immediately over from the photography studio at the Pier just 5 blocks away. It will become the morgue for the next few months.
Donna checks in. Frey checks in. Maureen. We all want to know: did we lose anyone?
A fighter jet flies over.
In a clear blue sky.
We go to Dag’s on 21st to get food, hardly talking. 8th avenue is a ghost town. We watch a Bollywood movie and eat pasta. A lot of pasta. And cake. I make a bed for her. We sleep. Fitful sleep.
Everyone brings food, blankets, money to the cop shop on my block. City folks bring hot food to the firemen. Volunteers come and assemble at the pier. The news is always on.
I can’t understand. And yet a total belief in something bigger than myself replaces despair.
A lot of sleep. New threats. Fighter jets and helicopters overhead. Photos everywhere. Union Square Park candlelight vigil and photos. The sweet and acrid smell ever present in lower Manhattan, where I live.
The entire seminary checks in online. We organise.
Exaggerated startle response. Make an escape plan to walk to Donna’s in the Bronx. Get emergency numbers of friends into phone. Make a call chain. Map out the route to the Canadian consulate.
Turn off the television. One hour of news a day.
Get on with life.
Days pass like a dream.
Images. Fear. Sleep. Anger. And love. Outpouring. Faith.
Take care of yourself, take care of your neighbour. Watch everywhere and everyone.
Under a clear blue sky above.
These are the things that I will never forget.