[about the author]
i actually like speaking in front of large crowds. freakish,
i work crossword puzzles in ink.
i am the american nigella lawson. or maybe the american eddie
izzard. can't decide, really.
i would be a really good mom, but i'm cool with being a really
i am sometimes more perceptive than i would like to be.
i am fiercely loyal. sometimes, stupidly so.
i never play dumb. never.
i am way too hard on myself.
i am a change agent.
i sometimes cross that fine line between assertive and aggressive.
i am not afraid to tell people that i love them.
i am militantly pro-choice.
i am pro-adoption.
i know a little bit about alot of things.
i typically enjoy the company of men more than women.
i am capable of being really mean and nasty, but i fight it.
i am a lifelong cubs fan. do not laugh.
i have been known to hold a grudge.
i have hips.
i am not my sister.
i am lousy at forgiving myself.
i am an indoor kind of gal.
i am a bargain shopper. to the point of obsession.
i am 32 flavors. and then some.
where i was when
there are a million stories. a million answers to the question "where were you when?"
my story begins on a clear blue september day, not unlike today. not so unlike september 11th, 2001.
i gazed out the window, watching the early fall breeze rippling through the leaves, wishing i could bail on my politics of war class when my professor walked through the door. i watched as she went to the blackboard and wrote a discussion topic on the board in cursive hand:
describe the next world war
most of my classmates offered thoughtful and well-reasoned scenarios, the majority of which involved the middle east.
i raised my hand reluctantly. my answer was a little different.
i said that i believed the next world war would take place here, in the united states. that the next war would be fought in our streets and in our skies. that, eventually, the united states would fall prey to the same type of terrorist acts that were already far too commonplace in other countries – hijackings, suicide bombings. that one day, citizens of this country would feel the same fear in our everyday lives that citizens around the world had felt for years. that we wouldn’t be safe anywhere anymore. that our nation had, somehow, been lucky enough to avoid such incidents thus far, but that i did not see how it was possible for that to continue long term.
the room was silent.
when i received the email from my boyfriend, my chest tightened. a plane had hit the world trade center.
i knew, somehow, immediately. without seeing the images. without any details. i knew. in some way, i guess i had been waiting for it for a very long time.
as i tried to log on to cnn to get more information, i had a very bad feeling. their site was jammed.
by the time i was able to access their site, the second plane had hit.
soon after, my co-worker’s phone rang. it was his wife.
“the pentagon exploded. there’s smoke and fire. we heard it. i’m scared. what should i do?”
“julia, you ride the metro, don’t you?”
“it’s shut down. i’m leaving. i’m getting out of downtown. i know you live in maryland, and i’m heading toward virginia, but if you want a ride out of the city, come with me. right now.”
walking out onto the sidewalk that morning, the sunlight was blinding. the sky was beautiful – piercingly blue with perfect, white fluffy clouds.
there were people everywhere. streaming out of buildings. huddled together talking. on cell phones. everyone frantically scanning the sky.
as i stood there taking in the scene, i realized that we were not going to get out of the city. not right away, anyway. that we could be trapped in the downtown traffic for a very long time. and i couldn’t help but wonder if it would turn out to be too long.
as we made our way into the traffic and out of the city, i noticed how quiet it was.
despite the cars, despite the crowds of people, it was so quiet.
no one honked a horn.
no one blocked an intersection.
an old woman stopped and sat down on a bench, holding her face in her hands. as she sat there, two young men, both pierced and tattooed, stopped and kneeled to talk to her. one of them gave her a bottle of water from his messenger bag. the other took a seat on the bench beside her and put his arm around her shoulder.
people passed their cell phones to strangers who didn’t have one…although none of us was able to get through to anyone.
the silent exodus of women in suits, carrying their prada heels and men with their ties untied came to a simultaneous halt as the sound of an airplane overhead was heard.
like children playing the game of gossip, information made from car to car through open windows...
”i hear there’s a plane making its way up the potomac.”
“the second tower is down!”
“there’s a fire or a bomb at the state department.”
as i entered the red line metro station, i suddenly realized i was the only person there.
i boarded the train. alone.
at the next stop, another passenger boarded, but only one.
he came and sat across the aisle from me.
“are you scared?” he said.
it wasn’t until hours after the first plane had hit the world trade center, that i saw my first images of september 11th.
last night, as the images were played again, i felt the same things i did on that bright clear blue day.
i would give anything to have been wrong on that bright blue september afternoon all those years ago.
[ed. note: i encourage you to read tom junod's piece in the september issue of esquire magazine. the story is titled “the falling man” and it is about the five-hundred pound gorilla of 9/11 – those individuals who jumped to their death from the world trade center. his article is, in my opinion, an important piece, addressing a topic that was swept under the rug with, probably, the best of intentions. it is also beautifully written and heartwrenching.]
| [tell me about it] | [link to this entry]