So I guess now I have to turn off the TV and stop checking
CNN.com every hour.
Theres got to be a way to stop walking around with my breath held while still watching for something out of the ordinary.
Its time to go Christmas shopping and to see movies.
But some parts of the movies have been erased, and others that havent wake up this huge ache.
I really should start saving and eating better.
How do I do that without feeling a vague sense of silliness?
Should I eat, drink and be merry or move on responsibly?
I feel guilty moving on.
I feel unsafe moving on.
I have to move on.
So I will take an unsteady step forward, not forgetting to look over my shouler.
For nine weeks Ive been seeing things as
"before" and "after."
A music video, scene from a movie, hit song, favorite book, day trip they all happened before.
Everyone there is somehow removed now from whats happening here.
Ive felt this strange wisdom, as if Ive been aged and hardened, always accompanied by a little ache.
But today I saw a Chicago Cubs bumper sticker.
I thought: the Cubs Chicago our summer vacation fun.
Without the weight or the longing, just remembering with a smile.
Yeah. That was fun.
There is only so much any of us can take, and now theres
been a loss at home.
My friends have been wounded.
Sometimes now I look up at the gray skies and see the grief blanketing us.
I can feel it smothering.
But other days I feel the warmth of all of us who are left behind, bound by experience, huddled together, closer than ever.
Through the window I saw the tarmac slowly begin to move.
Up and down the aisles, people grew silent as we ambled down the runway.
Then the engines roared, drowning out most of my thoughts.
As we picked up the pace, as the wheels contracted,
I clenched my fists while releasing the fear.
I will fear no evil.
I thought it and prayed it as the sky grew close and all we knew below vanished.
The Unforgettable Days
I opened a new calendar today and began flipping through the
My eyes scanned the Mondays and the holidays, the full moons, my birthday.
Many days are just days that will meld into a fuzzy recollection.
May 17 or August 5, who are you, really?
Over time our empty days grow more defined.
For each of us they take on different shapes, like snowflakes.
December 16 is 9 days before Christmas, or the day I was born, or the day your husband died.
Some days are for all of us.
We eat turkey.
We light sparklers.
We mourn and remember.
Turning through the crisp pages, I pause at September 11.
Its no longer just a day.
If only it was still my November 3 or February 20.
But life brings this promise.
Three years ago October 17 became my wedding anniversary.
And with the birth of my children, I will adopt other sweet, unforgettable days.
Grief ("Sweet Caroline" and the Red Sox Game)
Like a tap on the shoulder, it makes you stop.
Maybe its a movie or the first snowfall.
Maybe its Christmas or a familiar smile.
Something makes you turn around and remember.
You may feel a punch that doubles you forward; sucks away your
Other times its just a whisper:
Remember that? Remember when?
These few vivid seconds are a secret time in your mind.
But then, before someone asks you what is wrong, you shake
You blink quickly or swallow.
You shudder just slightly at this wakened sadness, a little awed that everything is still so clear.
And the memory slumbers again somewhere, to be roused by the faintest smell or notes of song or touch.
The evening smelled alive; city mixed with spring.
At City Hall, theyd taken down the giant American flag, and the melted candles and crinkled poems clustered at the bottom of light poles.
We ambled across the cobblestone, seeking the source of a clear, strong voice and exotic drums.
A teenage boy shouted "Go Patriots!" His girlfriends ducked their heads and giggled.
I couldnt stop looking up at the night and lights of skyscrapers and almost-full moon.
On the subway we sat across from a husband and wife and their
The father and two sons found seats; mother and daughter stood, losing their balance with every lurch forward, laughing.
The woman caught her husbands eye and smiled.
When the kids werent looking I saw her whisper "I love you."
The third time isnt as shocking.
Not when the streets are busy again, the rubble is almost gone and the smell is very faint, just a hint -- but lingering.
In front of the church there are still layers upon layers of flowers and notes and teddy bears, slightly yellowed, curled at the edges, dampening in the mist.
The first time, there were tears; next a spreading numbness.
Today I only watch others see it for the first time.
I understand now how the police officers in front of barricades can laugh, and the people who come out after working in that pit chat aimlessly with friends or grab a bite to eat.
We stand in a long line for the ferry, shivering in the rain.
We all have to go through metal detectors and have our bags searched.
"Im sorry folks," says the park ranger. "This is how it is now." But hes smiling, joking around with the crowd.
On the boat I look across the murky water to the city.
The towers were right there.
I think, but Im not quite sure.
Its as if someone neatly sheared the skyline. Everything is even now.
Later eating pizza the waitress snaps at me.
Im stung and then warmed.
Isnt that the old New York?
Oh, these strange ups and downs. This temperature-taking.
Just to get the stamp of approval to move forward.
Just to lift the weight of remembering off my shoulders.
The star-spangled billboard from Big Y, the one that said
"God Bless America," now reads, "The Very Best
Fish and Chips."
And that hastily hung message -- magic markers on a sheet -- the one that dangled from the overpass on 291, the one that said: "We must not forgive. We will not forget" is gone.
I see so many flags with tattered edges.
I hear car horns honking and people losing their tempers in the checkout line.
In the mornings, instead of checking CNN, I brush my teeth and admire the sunrise.
Each day it seems I surpass my previous record. Sometimes sweet, full minutes, and then hours go by, before I remember to remember.
The world is still here.
A pale robin's-egg sky and snow frosting tree
City lights and bridges, buds, and joggers on wet sidewalks
Music drifting and lines etched in faces
Stinging cheeks when you've cried too long
The warmth of memory, like baked bread
Even the hollow parts that shred my insides, but testify I am alive.
Blood and baseball
People clawing through the ruins
Grasping the familiar
Scrubbing away all that clings
Leaving only the raw, exposed parts
Exposing what is absent
Illuminating that which remains
April and September
Chilly climbing in the car
Curling hands around the cup
Seeing spring open eyes
and summer die
Sometimes I wonder if in New York people feel
like a man who has lost his legs,
who sometimes wakes in the night, not believing.
He searches out the familiar spot, and foolish shadows let him dream.
Until morning, when sunlight again attests to
what is missing,
and his mind again rouses the ache.
I still remember, still hear --
those chirping firefighter signals, the beeping alarms that sang help-me help-me, help-me help-me.
I heard them when I stood in the dark on the porch beneath the silent skies.
They reminded me crickets, singing their late summer song, saying their goodbyes.
At work they ask me to help with the memorial.
For the one-year anniversary, we will have the names in the hospital's chapel.
And I must find out when to hold the moment of silence: 8:45am, or 8:46? No one knows.
I find a list on the Internet of everyone who died.
When I cut and paste I have 67 pages of names, ages, hometowns.
First I must remove the asterisk that means a body has been found. Then fix state abbreviations.
I change the font -- unbold -- make the text black, not blue.
Then hold down the mouse and let it scroll and scroll, watching but not seeing, dizzied by the truth of it.
Before and After
Before I was the only one on the flight from
Chicago to Hartford
who thought that agitated man might possibly be a terrorist and
secretly felt a little left out because Gen-Xer's never had something like a JFK --
what the TV specials liked to call a "defining moment."
I don't watch that trauma in the ER show --
why seek out blood, pain, confusion?
And I know I was right -- anything can happen and if
I see that movie "City of Angels" when he jumps and
the concrete races up at him I can't help it,
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