Today, everywhere you look, are reminders and remembrances of what we now call 9/11. All week I have been thinking about Sept. 10, 2001, and how I would love to spend just one more day in that world.
On Sept. 10, 2001, I was fussing about my then-new car. A woman in an SUV had rear-ended me at a stop sign the week before. When I asked for her insurance information, she started yelling: “This was not my fault. If you hadn’t stopped, I wouldn’t have hit you!” Go figure.
On Sept. 10, my anger over the accident and frustration over repairs clouded the last day of the world as we knew it. My friend Sammy said he spent the day researching alternative eye care because he had an eye exam the next day.
I wonder about the thousands who died Sept. 11. What was Sept. 10 like for them? Did they take it for granted like we did? Did they fuss at their loved ones? Fret over things that didn’t matter?
Of course they did. They, like all of us, expected to live through the next day and the next and so on for decades to come. They expected to die, old men and old women, having lived long lives that approximated their dreams.
I would like to go back to Sept. 10, and for a day not know the hideous caprice of life. I would like to think of the World Trade Center as nothing more than a way to get your bearings in Manhattan. I would like to think of the United States as safe and at peace. As silly as it sounds, I’d like to hear “Up on the Roof” without thinking of the broken-hearted families of New York firefighters listening to James Taylor sing at the concert after 9/11.
That’s the difference between Sept. 10 and Sept. 11, 2001: The simple beautiful things we lived with became something else entirely. Even the American flag elicits sadness. During those hard times after the attacks, we clung to that symbol and poured all of our pain into it.
On Sept. 10, we thought we were safe. It was denial, of course, but to borrow from Hemingway, it was pretty to think so.
Just days after the planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and United 93 crashed into a Pennsylvania field, a New Yorker blogged about our changed world. He saw what had happened and he foresaw what life would become:
“Normal is going to be a long time coming. And I think normal is going to be different than it was before. Eventually there won’t be people on the street crying and dazed. Eventually everyone will be able to go home to their apartments. Eventually the trains will run regularly again, the bridges will be totally open and life will return to something resembling normal. But it’s not going to be quite the same. I think people will be aware of how vulnerable we are and how tenuous normalcy is.”
But Sept. 10 ... that seems like a different life altogether.