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Revisiting 9/11 Forevermore

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Every year on this day, we are all New Yorkers. — President Barack Obama

Suddenly, without warning, I am here again, spiraling through the clouds and heavy rain, hovering over what they now call “The Pit” where once stood the buildings known as the Twin Towers. I see that since last year some progress has been made, but it seems incredible that after all this time things aren’t farther along than they are. How can this be?

I gain some control and can focus better through the raindrops; the people who have come to honor me and those like me are nowhere near where it all happened. They are removed and on the edge of things in a small park. I come every year because I desire it, and somehow when I want things they happen. I still don’t understand how it works, and I sometimes cannot believe I am even dead. I know I am but I still can’t accept it, I guess.

The people who have come here are so valiant, standing in the rain with umbrellas and all sorts of raingear covering them. There are children holding flowers, mothers holding photographs, fathers holding signs with names on them and messages. There are wives who cry in the rain and with the rain and in spite of the rain, because their tears are endless as the seas and there is no eight years ago or today, but only a tomorrow without their beloved ones.

I see politicians whom I wish I could not see because these same people did nothing to protect and save me and my brethren. Why are they here now except to capitalize on some political points they can gain? Why can’t they let this day be pure grief and leave those people who are truly suffering alone with others like them?

Of course, the cameras are there and the news people who pretend this didn’t happen during the rest of the year, but they too are using the moment to their advantage, for ratings and whatever reason people without hearts do things. How dare they insult the intelligence and dignity of these good people with their cameras and phony expressions of sorrow?

I still have trouble dealing with that day, accepting that day, and going on with my, well, my existence after death. I am told by others like me that everyone is different after death. Some accept it freely, and those are the lucky ones. Others do not accept it or even do not believe they are dead. I am in this category. I still see myself at my desk, checking e-mail when the first plane hit, and I haven’t been able to reconcile things.

Once the initial impact was over and I had shaken the plaster and part of the cubicle wall off my body, I picked myself up off the floor and did what I always had done when something big happened. I called my wife. People were screaming all around me, smoke was pouring up from the point of impact, and debris hung in the air like confetti on New Year’s Eve. I dialed her number and called her. She already knew because she was ironing clothes and watching TV. I said everything was going to be okay. I told her I was getting out of there and would be home as soon as possible, and that was the last time I spoke to her.

I had no idea about terrorists as I hung up the phone. I knew something terrible had happened from the way the building shook. Maybe an earthquake. Maybe a bomb like back in ‘93. I didn’t know what the hell happened but I was getting out of there, or so I thought. I remember grabbing my jacket and running to the exit door, but the black sulfurous smoke came pouring out as I opened it.

I was spinning and turning and then I remember nothing but the flash of neon light, and then I felt like I was falling forever, way beyond the edge of the building and through time and space and I kept thinking about those e-mails I hadn’t answered, about calling my wife back, and finding a way to get out and on the E train home to Queens.

So all this time has passed for people but nothing has really passed at all, for the dead or their living friends, lovers, and family. What happens seems like it just happened to me, in fact it keeps happening and then I am someplace else, with other victims and then I am free of all that and roaming the earth. Searching. I want to find my body, cram myself back inside it no matter how damaged it is, and find a way to hobble home. I think that my wife will accept me no matter how I look; my children will shower my battered face with tears, and my parents will love me as they always have no matter what.

I have been searching and am amazed at how time means nothing and everything. I can think I want to be someplace and I am there instantly. I have marveled at things I never saw in life, but I am humbled by people all over the world who have mourned me and others like me who died on 9/11. I am also revolted by those who celebrated the fall of the Twin Towers like it was a victory on a playing field. How shameful are these people? Well, wait until it’s their turn to die. They’ll see how it is.

I know the people responsible for what happened are not all caught yet. I’ve been there in Afghanistan and have seen our brave men and women fighting the good fight, but it’s not over. I know many people just want it to be over, but it is never over. All of you ridiculous people who bemoan water-boarding and all this other stuff, I have news for you: there are hundreds and thousands more of people just like those guys who caused the fall of the towers. They’re waiting to strike again anywhere and anytime, and you’re worried about their rights and care nothing about all those souls lost that day.

Let me tell you something. All you have to do is flood Afghanistan with soldiers, all the ones from that other war that is over anyway in Iraq. I’ve been there too and have seen the courageous soldiers fighting, but we need them over in Afghanistan now. All of them and more. We need to flood that country and occupy every area of it, push across the border into Pakistan whether or not anyone likes it, and crush these people now. If we do not, more buildings will fall and people will die and it will never end. Trust me, it never ends.

So I am here again. I thought about the day and I was here. This is how it works for me now. I flutter down through the rain, looking for my wife amongst the many. I hear the people crying, I see their tears mingling with the raindrops, but this does nothing to dilute their pain and suffering. They are reading the names on a platform. So many names and faces to go with them. I am one of those faces and I do not fade away with the years; none of us do.

I finally see my wife and children standing there under two big umbrellas. My son and daughter are so big now. She brought them this time after not bringing them before. It’s not like I haven’t seen them; I visit the house now and then to watch over them. It hurts me so that I cannot hold them, cannot brush the tears from their eyes, but I am there with them and kiss their foreheads as they sleep in bed, and I try to spoon my wife as she sleeps, still clinging to her side with the rest of the empty bed seemingly waiting for me. Well, honey, I am there. Always.

The ceremony is over now and the people are walking down toward The Pit to a small pool, throwing in flowers of love and memory. The grieving is extraordinary, the comfort is in the process and I can see my children each drop a flower in the pool, followed by my wife. She sobs as she drops the flower, says a few words I can’t understand from where I am, but I do know what she has said. There was so much unsaid between us when I died, but I know it all by heart now anyway, for it has been revealed to me through her prayers.

Things end rather quickly and I am moving upward again, toward the rain and grey clouds, and I look down at The Pit one last time, knowing I’ll be back. This time of year next year, and the year after that, until the end of time. We on this side will never forget and we need you on that side to always remember. We are all energy now, floating together above the mourners and we intermingle, allowing each other’s thoughts to be heard.

There are thousands of us joined for a moment in time, and then just like that we shoot out in all directions, heading to all corners of the earth, parting ways but not company. We are all part of a club we never wanted to join, but we are members for eternity. I don’t even know where I am going, but I am still searching and hoping to find a way to accept.

Whatever happens I’ll be back. We’ll all be back because we have no choice. So, remember us not just this one day a year, but all 365 days of it. Please build these towers to show the world, and get them built faster and higher and do it for us. Get Bin Laden and any other person who would ever harm innocents, and show the world justice and remind them of our legacy. Do it for us all and never forget us. Never forget us because all we can do is remember and wait.

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Victor, very chilling article. I just submitted an article here on BC from a different perspective: Someone from the West Coast, that did not have to endure the torment as you did, but who watched every second, really cared then and still do today! If I would of known about your book, I would of put it there too!

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Thanks, Christine. As the President said, everyone is a New Yorker on this day. Never forgetting and always marking the day is how we can honor those lost best.

  • STM

    I didn’t just get to watch it down here in Australia.

    As we’re a day ahead in Sydney, we worked through the night and into lunchtime the next day, with all the TVs on showing the live coverage, putting out a newspaper devoted to the attacks in America.

    For all our differences, Americans are our cousins and we feel like the US is just an extension of us transplanted on the other side of the Pacific. The scale of the attacks and the carnage wrought shocked us too. (Last night, I watched some documentary re-runs of the footage on cable, which brought back all the memories.)

    My job entailed looking at pictures of the attack, some of which were too graphic to publish, doing up some of the copy coming in from New York and around the world, and then we did a special street edition of the paper that ditched most of our regular stuff.

    In the months following, as the foreign editor, I was given the dubious opportunity (dubious because it remained shocking) of keeping tabs on the aftermath, and every day we moved September 11 (and its aftermath) pictures and copy up the front of the paper, out of the foreign section.

    I remember the picture of the last truck taking the last load of debris from the site, and the cross that was left that was a couple of steel cross-beams that had somehow survived the catastrophe.

    One thing really struck me in all the bleating from the terrorsts and their sympathisers who were raving on about how the difference between them and us was that “you love life, and we love death”.

    That seemed to be both their bizarre justification and their deluded reasoning for why we couldn’t “win”.

    I see it another way. If a fanatic believes he’ll go to heaven for flying a planeload of innocent peoople into a skyscraper full of innocent people, and that the afterlife is all that counts, is their much courage involved in that?

    The other side of that coin:

    On September 11, I clearly remember watching firemen going into the burning towers to try to rescue those trapped inside.

    They must have known in their hearts there was every chance they’d be walking up those stairs to their deaths. And awful deaths, too.

    But they went anyway.

    That’s true courage.

    It’s also the difference between us and them, and why they’ll never “win”.

    If anyone doubts that we are doing the wrong thing by pursuing these people from one end of the globe to the other until their hateful ideology is consigned to the dustbin of history where it belongs, just re-run the footage of those attacks.

    You’ll change your mind in an instant.

    (I have my own experience: My friend’s 15-year-old daughter was killed by an al-Qaeda offshoot in the Kuta Beach bombings in Bali on October 12, 2002. He’d taken her there for a birthday treat for her 16th birthday with one of her schoolfriends. She was among 202 people killed, mostly tourists, including 80 Australians).

    No one should forget that these people are just mass murderers, lunatics and psychopaths. Bringing them to justice is the only path we have.

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Thanks for your comments, STM. I remember that Bali bombing and felt outrage, because once again their warped justification for their actions involved the deaths of innocents.

    I appreciate your wonderful and on the money commentary.

  • Brenda

    Vic – a powerful point of view that makes one think again how it was for the people in the World Trade Center on 911. We must never forget that day.
    Brenda

  • Gin

    Vic, very moving it makes you really feel for these families that have had such great loss.Your writiing is so powerful, it makes you part of 911. We will never forget that day where WE were will you ?Gin

  • Colleen

    Dr Lana, I may have moved to another state but my heart has not. Your essays are eartfelst, prescious and powerful. Even though Iam miles away on 9/11 I walk arounf in a daze because i can recall every moment of where I was and whom I was with and I revive myself in how p[roud Iam to be a born and bred NY”er. I miss you all very much, and I will never forget whom and where I spent 9/11 with, a family I will treasure forever. God Bless.

  • zingzing

    alright, this might sound a little harsh, and maybe i’m playing devil’s advocate here, but when i read the title of this piece, i thought it was going to be about the increasing ridiculousness of these 9/11 memorials. every year, we spend all day hearing about “the day that changed everything” and our “national heroes” and “the horror” and all that. we seem to wallow in it like a mother who lost her child 10 years ago and goes about on the anniversary of the death wailing and moaning to the chagrin of everyone around her.

    i know it was a terrible day and that many good people were lost. but these kinds of things happen all the time. just not to us. if we put as much empathy into all our endeavors, i think this world would be a better place. but we don’t. it’s only when it’s “us” that we seem to think it’s worth mourning.

    i’m not saying that there shouldn’t be some type of remembrance on this day, but the sheer volume and scale of it, the hyperbole, the giant national pat on the back it has become, gets on my nerves. i just wish the mourning could be a little more dignified, and not something designed to sell newspapers and tv advertising. this day has become a mockery of the suffering that occurred, more akin to the fourth of july… an excuse to sell little american flags.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Victor,

    I’m a Brooklyn boy, and used to work across the street from the Twin Towers myself. I still cannot believe what I saw on CNN on my fiftieth birthday from the Ben-Yehuda Pizza Shop in downtown Jerusalem.

    If you multiply the population of this country to equal the population of the US, you need a multiple of about 50. If you multiply the 25 killed in the Park Hotel in Netanya by 50, you get 1,250; and then add the 16 killed at the Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv by 50, you get 800. That’s 2,050 people. In other words, as bad as the attack on the World Trade Center was, we know tragedies of similar dimensions for us here. I raise this issue not to engage in some obscene attempt to compare the two tragedies by to drive home a point.

    You do not get closure from any of these terrorist attacks until you destroy the root that allows this terror to flow. That root is Riyadh. Until we in Israel nuke Riyadh – or until you do – there will be no closure for anyone. The money for the madrassas of hatred will still flow, and those who rejoice at our deaths will still rejoice. The animals who would murder us off will still be assured of funds, and rest easy in their beds thinking that they can hide behind the dhimmi laws in the Dar al-Harb.

    NUKE THE BASTARDS. Be done with them once and for all.