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Family Aid 2020
   Vol. 20 No. 36
Thursday September 23, 2021

Flossie Arend on 9/11

Flossie ArendFlossie Arend
Managing Editor
Air Cargo News FlyingTypers

    I remember waking up on the morning of 9/11 and wishing I could go back to sleep. I was a junior in college and had chosen to have early morning classes on Tuesdays - a big mistake for me as I naturally kept night owl hours. My dorm apartment was relatively quiet when I got out of bed, but I could hear the television on in the living room; this was a normal occurrence as my actor student roommates were always up early and put the television on while they had breakfast and got ready for the day.
     I remember walking in to the living room and feeling as if I had walked into a museum. My roommates, coffees in hand, were sitting and standing as still as statues, their eyes focused on the television set. The first plane was hitting Tower 1 on a loop, like some nightmarish broken record. It was probably about 8:55 in the morning then.
     I don't remember what we said to each other, but they must have acknowledged my presence with something like, "A plane hit the World Trade Center." I was frozen. I think I had the opposite reaction from everyone else, at least from what I've read in editing together FlyingTyper's 9/11 responses: my brain immediately began buzzing with negative thoughts. A plane of that size would never fly so low, so close to the city. Some instinctual part of me knew it was terrible, and not an accident.
     I stood with my roommates, watching as the second plane hit Tower 2. I don't know what came over me then, but something in me clicked on, like an automatic coffee drip. I picked up my things and left my apartment to go to class. I don't know why I thought class would still be going on, but I guess when something like that happens - the kind of thing that attempts to tear through the fabric of a routine life - the brain and the body struggle to operate normally. Like when someone dies and we comb their hair just so, and fix their collar, and wipe something from their cheek.
     My morning class was all the way on the other side of campus, across a large field. I had to pass through several dorm apartments to get there. I remember that it was an absolutely gorgeous day. A robin egg sky, a warm, yolky sun and very few clouds. The only sound I could hear was the soft wind through the trees and the gossiping birds. No one was outside. I was the only person still on schedule, walking to a class that was surely canceled but walking anyway, I'm not sure why. I distinctly remember taking a path between dorm apartment buildings and seeing the blinds closed on all the windows, as if no one was willing to let this day in - as if they could somehow keep it out. Every window was flickering ghostly blue behind those blinds, the lit staccato coding of television sets humming in dark rooms. That image will stay with me always - the long, green path between buildings and those eerie, flashing blue windows - my campus as a ghost town.
     I reached the door of the building that my classroom was in and it was locked, of course. There was no sign - no time for signs, I guess. Looking back on it now, I suppose it is somewhat ironic how determined I was to get to my Tuesday morning class - Self Defense. Something unconscious was clearly at work there; I don't think I have to explain it.
     I got back to my dorm in time to see the towers fall. I can't describe the feeling of watching something like that happen in real time. We take for granted the landscape of life and the world so that when the topography changes, it is a grim reminder of impermanence - our own and our world's. Perhaps it was my youth, but I wasn't prepared to see a piece of New York City crumble to ashes; I naively thought of the buildings like bone in the body of the city, and a broken bone - a tooth falling out - was unfathomable.
     The days that followed were jumbled and confusing. I didn't feel in them so much as outside of them, peering in. My siblings were scattered all over the city, and I was only interested that they were ok. My parents were meant to be in the Towers delivering the Air Cargo News that day, and I am forever grateful that the stress of a family business left them too tired to go in.
     Everything changed that day. We became a nation that didn't just look on horror, but experienced it as well.
     For decades we had seen war come to others and had seen how it ravaged and destroyed, but it had never come to us like with the World Trade Center. Even Pearl Harbor had occurred within some kind of pretext, however awful it was. I feel as if this was like a shot to Achilles' heel - we were not some ambling God-nation that could remain impenetrable and immortal. There were arrows that could take us down. I only wish we had the foresight to see it earlier, to know that we were, in fact, capable of crumbling, and that just because we had wealth in our coffers did not mean we could be kept safely outside the realm of the horrible. Money won't protect or save you - it might just put a target on your back.
     The idealist in me wishes we could have gone in another direction somehow - one that didn't lead to fear, suspicion, hate, racism, greed, war. It's been 10 years and we only just recently took out Osama bin Laden.      What do we have to show for those ten years? How did we grow - not as a nation, but as people who share a planet? I know I'm probably 1,000 times safer getting on and off a plane now, but is life in general any safer? It seems we are treating symptoms and not illnesses. How can we heal ourselves at the source?
     Some would say the hate and anger at the root of all this is like the common cold - it can't be cured. They've given up hope.
     Why give away the one thing that can't be taken?

Flossie Arend wrote this in 2011 reflecting on the 10th anniversary of 911.

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Vol. 20 No. 35
Escape From The World Trade Center

Publisher-Geoffrey Arend • Managing Editor-Flossie Arend • Editor Emeritus-Richard Malkin
Film Editor-Ralph Arend • Special Assignments-Sabiha Arend, Emily Arend

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