It was a workday like any other, and then we lost our internet access. And the phones started acting up. And no cell service. Multiple calls to the IT desk. "We're working on it, something system-wide."
Then the word spread through the office, since someone had a radio. First disbelief. Then anxiety. Then terror. Then a decision: just walk.
The utter quiet on the subway. The apocalyptic absence of cell phones, since nobody's was working anyway. Time froze. My shallow breathing was like a hurricane in my own ears.
We sat in a diner in Astoria eating burgers. Fucking burgers. The ludicrosity of it, doing something we'd do any other day. "Thank G-d my parents are in Arizona," he said, choking back tears, eyes determinedly dry. "That's my neighborhood. My home. My backyard." He stared, jaw hard, silently raging.
"I hope everyone... knows I'm safe," I said, thinking of my family and friends in the midwest.
We sat in silence, chewing mindlessly, a few feet apart, but miles away.
Back at my apartment I refused to look out my fifth-story window at my view of lower Manhattan. I knew what was out there.
When I finally got one friend on the phone, we cried to together. Fear and grief morphed into anger. Ranting, raving, condemning, blaming. Then melting back into fear, and grief, and finally relief. "I though I'd lost you," my friend wept. He was in DC. "I thought I'd lost you," I wept. We sat on the phone, listening to each other's silence, grateful for it.
When I could, I went to church. We held each other and prayed. Random strangers wandered in, telling stories, confessing, breaking down. We listened and prayed and made coffee. We stayed for hours. All over New York survivors were holding each other, praying, crying, standing up and saying I AM STILL HERE.
We still cry for those who were lost on that day. And we will never, ever forget them, or the lessons we learned from surviving.
I vow to make my survival meaningful by living my life to the best extent possible. I will be the person G-d knows I can be. I will be the best Me I can, and give as much as I can to my fellow human beings. I work from hope, not fear. In spite of my frustration and missteps and Prozac and imperfections, I want to be a living example of the triumph of humanity.
I am an analytical person, and over the years rage and grief give way to ponderance, examination, a left-brained attempt at understanding. There is no way to understand. Acceptance comes in, and a new layer of grief, and frustration, and sadness. Finally, true acceptance, and something that feels like healing.
And when I am a black, empty cavern, I realize I am not empty, something remains. I am left with gratitude. And I live.