Monday, September 11, 2006

5 Years Later

Last night I dreamt about the attacks on September 11 - actually, I dreamt about how to talk about them in my classes (which is something I didn't plan on doing). In my dream, I had an elaborate plan to talk about how different all the various views of September 11 are and how they reflect different interpretations of history.... but that's not what I want to think about now.

Last night I tuned in very briefly to the ABC production on "The Path to 9/11," but didn't watch it. I also didn't watch the documentary film on CBS - footage from the day itself, not a made for TV movie. I think I saw it when it was first shown in the fall of 2001. I just couldn't - it was too raw. I still remember clearly the first images on television that I saw that day.

I woke up late on September 11, 2001. I didn't have to teach until 5:30 p.m. that day, so I could afford to sleep in a bit. I woke up shortly before 9 a.m. and was lying in bed listening to the local news station. There was something strange on the news about a plane hitting a building in New York, but then the local host didn't say anything about it. I got up and went downstairs to turn on CNN. That's when I saw the Twin Towers burning. The second plane had just a hit a few minutes before. I was watching television when the plane hit the Pentagon a few minutes later. I watched the collapse of the two towers within the next hour. I remember standing and watching with my hands on my face - I could not believe what I was seeing. Eventually, I went to work, and people were wandering around in a daze. I cancelled my 5:30 class, because no one could pay attention - students wanted to try to reach their friends and relatives in New York (which was next to impossible that day, because the phone lines were jammed).

So no, I don't need a made-for-TV movie to remind me of what happened - it still unrolls in my mind the way it happened on that blue September morning, not so long ago.

W.H. Auden, on another day in September:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night....

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone....
From Auden's poem, "September 1, 1939"

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