Thursday, September 9

The Inevitable NY Blogger Post

Last night I freaked myself out about my kitchen again.

As I wrote the other day, now that I’ve shared one of my most personal life experiences I feel more open to sharing other events that have strongly impacted me. My breast saga was the post I knew I’d always write and am very happy I did. This is The Inevitable NY Blogger Post that I’m forcing myself to write.

My issues with my stove scare the crap out of me. Sure, it is completely rational to be concerned about gas leaks or fires, but the visions and anxiety I feel while worrying about these things is not. At the risk of sounding like a crazy person, from about 7pm to 2am I had awful thoughts of my kitchen blowing up, me on fire, and everyone in my building dying. It was horrible.

After the most recent Stovegate incident earlier this year, I knew I needed to figure out where the hell all of this stress and fear were coming from. It finally occurred to me a few months ago. Only now am I somewhat ready to address it. I hate to admit this, but I think it’s because of September 11th.

Why do I hate to admit this? Because I fucking hate thinking about that day. I also feel like I don’t have a right to be upset about it. I didn’t lose a loved one, I wasn’t at ground zero. Who am I to have a story? Well after nine years of holding it in, here it is:

In June 2001 I got my first job out of college working for Penguin Putnam in the West Village. I still lived in NJ at the time so I used to catch a 6:30am bus and arrive in the city around 8:15am. The commute was rough, but I loved the view of Manhattan from the ramp going into the Lincoln Tunnel. I also liked to either walk the two miles to work from Port Authority or sit in the park on Clarkson Street when it was nice out.

September 11, 2001 was a gorgeous day. I remember sitting on the bus looking out the window and thinking how the city was picture perfect. Typically I would have walked to work, but that day I chose to take the subway. I got off at West 4th, walked west on Carmine, and saw at least twenty cop cars fly south down Varick. The sirens were deafening. Something was definitely wrong.

As I was entering my building, a girl from HR came running out saying that a plane hit one of the towers. We walked around the corner to Greenwich Street where a crowd had formed. We were only a mile away with a clear view of the towers. Through the smoke we could see the hole in the side of the North Tower. At least I’m pretty sure we could. The girl from HR (Kate maybe?) was crying and this is before we even knew what was happening. She just kept saying, “Those poor people. Those poor people.” The construction workers around us were a bit less sympathetic and kept cracking jokes about how the pilot must have been a drunken asshole. I believed them because really, what else could it be?

A few minutes later I was about to take Kate inside when everyone gasped. It happened so fast that I'm not even sure if I saw the second plane hit, but I did watch it explode and a big fireball fill the sky. I’d say it was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life, but I still haven't come to terms with what I think. It felt surreal, like I was watching an action movie on an outdoor IMAX screen. At this point even the construction workers flipped out. No one knew what to do so we ran inside the building.

My memories of the rest of the day are in scenes, not one consistent playback. The president of the company came to every floor and said please stay indoors until we know what to do. We went to a conference room to watch the news. My coworker Sharon was hysterically crying because her boyfriend worked at World Trade. When he eventually showed up at her desk completely covered in dust, time stood still as they hugged and cried in each others’ arms. It was one of the most heartfelt and loving moments I’ve ever witnessed.

My best friend at the time was Nicole. She worked at a law firm a couple of blocks away from the towers. I called her a zillion times, but kept getting her voicemail. When she finally answered she yelled at me to stop bugging her because she was getting ready for a deposition and hung up. A few minutes later the first tower collapsed. I cried and called her again, but I think it was around this time that her cellphone service dropped. I didn’t hear from her for two hours and when I finally did, I almost threw up from relief. This is why I won’t switch from Verizon. My phone worked most of that day.

When the first tower collapsed I went into my boss’s office to call my mom. It was pretty stupid to be in there because my boss had a perfect view of the towers. I was on the phone as I watched the second tower fall. Up until that moment I always thought it would be fun to watch a building demolition. I no longer think this.

I don’t remember when we decided to leave the office. Bridget lived up on 42nd Street so a bunch of us walked to her apartment. We were zombies. Everyone was zombies. Someone suggested we get food so there we were, on one of the worst days of our lives, waiting in line for a cheeseburger at McDonald’s. We didn’t know what else to do. On our walk uptown, we saw people crowded around car radios and store televisions. “This Revolution Will Not Be Televised” was blaring from an apartment window. Anytime a helicopter or plane flew over head, we ducked for cover. Again, it was all right out of a movie.

I’m not sure how long I stayed at Bridget’s. The news said NJTransit trains were running again so I went down to New Brunswick to meet my brother at Rutgers. The train was packed with people arguing about what our government should do next. Kill them, bomb them, hang them. There was a lot of anger on that train.

You know who wasn’t angry? College students. I got off the train and I swear to god I thought I was in the Twilight Zone. Kids were chatting, laughing, bike riding. It was a beautiful day, why wouldn’t they be? Richie must have been in class or something because I remember talking to his roommates, then my friend Lou. Lou, I don’t remember what the heck we talked about. All I do remember is looking at my feet (I was wearing sandals) and saying, “I never noticed my big toes were so hairy.” to which Lou answered, “THAT’S what you’re concerned about right now!?!?!”

I’m not sure what time it was when I finally got to Jackson. I laid down on the couch in the fetal position and cried for hours. The next day Richie took me to the park because I didn’t want to be near the television. The week is a blur, but I’m pretty sure I was back to work on Friday the 14th. The city was different. I was different.

I’m not exactly sure when my fear of explosions began. I realize now it must have something to do with the fireball. How could it not, right? I believe the first time I freaked out was on one of the rafting trips. I had nightmares that our campfire would spread or the propane tank at a nearby campsite would blow. My fear seems to have gotten worse through the years as I’m still ridiculously nervous at barbecues, especially when people are smoking too close to the grill. My stove issues haven’t helped ease my neuroses, either. At least three times this year I was overcome by anxious thoughts of my kitchen exploding and killing everyone in my building. This is not good.

Now I’m embarrassed. I feel like a jerk for using 9/11 as a reason to why I am insane. Again, I feel like I don’t have a right to be affected by it, but as you now know, I do have issues with trusting myself and tend to feel guilty about my emotions. I guess it’s also because I feel like a hypocrite. I fucking hate everyone else in the country who weren’t in NY that day or didn’t lose a loved one, yet chant “never forget.” Honestly, I don’t like to remember.

I also don’t like the ignoramuses who use 9/11 as an excuse for hating other religions and cultures. Did everyone hear about the mosque being built two blocks away from ground zero? Of course you have, the media and politicians are having a field day with it. Did you know there's already a mosque four blocks away and another one ten blocks? Probably not, because then this wouldn’t be newsworthy drama. And don’t even get me started on the pastor in Florida. All of this just in time for the anniversary, too…

So what now? Has writing this changed me? Will my fear of explosions magically disappear? Am I insane or traumatized or both? Who knows. Apparently I’m unloading all of my emotional baggage this year, so I figured now was a good time to write about this. Plus at this point I’ll do anything to stop being afraid of my kitchen.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Shannon, This was so moving...I am speechless. People should read this, especially those who, like you, watched the whole incident happening in front of their eyes. And there was nothing anyone could do about it. Absolutely people get traumatized by an experience like that and the results may show later in their lives with similar fears like yours. You have every right to every emotion; you don't have to have lost a leg or a loved one to have been deeply affected by this devastating experience. Please circulate this writing of yours. It will help a lot of people. Calliope