Remembering Being There
I remember 911. I remember it well. I remember the morning of 9/12. I remember Ground Zero. I remember meeting only one First Responder. I asked him if I could have his help moving some boulders so that I and those with me could place radio repeaters; devices which would help police and fire supervisors communicate with each other more easily.
I remember his face, even through the equipment mask and goggles. I remember his telling me, “Sorry, Sir. You can’t move those ‘boulders’ because they ain’t boulders. They’re the remains of those who died in this ‘f—ing’ mess.” I looked more closely. I remember seeing flesh and blood. The blood was dark, dark red. Almost black. I remember.
Then I remember going back into the communications van, the one which brought us to Ground Zero so that we could help. I remember seeing the man with the box of Marlboro’s, smoking his brains out. I remember. I remember wanting one, even after nearly 18 years of being smoke free. I had to have one. Even if it was just to put in my mouth unlit. Then I needed to light it up.
I figured, “Hey, whathehell! It’s gonna taste bad and I am going to choke after one drag.” I remember saying that to myself before breaking down and weeping like a child for at least a half hour. The scenes at ground zero precluded my remaining anything but hurt and extraordinarily sad.
The man with the Marlboro gave me one. I lit up and took a long drag. I did not choke. It went down as smooth as if I’d never quit.
I’ve been smoking since. I remember.
After the event, immediately after, I remember seeing everyone displaying the American Flag everywhere. At their homes, on their cars and even the State Police carried the Flag on their cruisers.
That lasted maybe three of four months. I remember. I remember seeing fewer and fewer of those flags as the months flew by. Now, some six years after the disaster, no one, practically no one has the Flag on their cars or for that matter, anywhere else.
I remember being about ten years old and the flag flying every day at our house. On the flag pole in front of our home. Dad brought that flag up and down every day. On arrival home from work, he brought it down, folding it carefully and lovingly. I remember.
Today, no one displays anything except perhaps the rancor of the times. “Bush is a bastard! Clinton is a pig, Republicans are ass holes, Democrats are worse.”
On and on. But no flag. No heart for America. I remember. And I shall remember all my life, how times and attitudes changed over the decades. I remember America the way it was and should have been. I remember Americans being loyal and patriotic. I remember.
But I will never ever remember anything as vividly as Ground Zero on the morning of 9/12. It was like walking on the moon, with a thick layer of dust consisting of powdered concrete and steel which actually turned to dust. I remember that.
I remember the dust. I remember the flesh. I remember the cooked blood. I remember the tears and the frustration of being angry and feeling as if I could kill whatever or whomever did that most terrible deed. I remember. And I remember knowing that there are those who believe the worst. That it was our own government did that deed.
I remember too, that whomever was responsible, will pay with their souls some day. There is nothing they can do to be forgiven by men. Only God can forgive. Maybe.