I don’t have to look at a calendar. I feel it coming.
The humidity lifts, the sun shines, the breeze washes the streets.
I duck my head, focus on the busyness of school preparations. Of an upcoming change of seasons.
Another day passes.
I try to push it away.
It ignores me, reaches out from inside me.
The pulse of laughter, mobile phones ringing, cabs honking, newspapers crinkling, the puff of a city bus before it pulls away from the stop.
The thunks and clicks and shuffles of all different kinds of feet from all over the world, converging in one place. The melody of the mixing of humanity.
Business. Money. Food. The white glare of sunshine off of blue glass windows forcing pedestrians to don sunglasses as they sip their coffees.
The sharp creek of heavy metal bulkhead doors before they crash open onto the early morning sidewalks. Heavy men in white aprons yelling in colorful languages at skinny guys hefting crates off of delivery trucks, down into the bowels of restaurants.
The life. The flow of people, bikes, cabs, cars, buses, vans through the streets like blood rushing through a living creature.
The city bled.
My breath huffing to the quick beat of my thick black shoes heading West on a late summer morning.
The bleeps of redial and a busy tone Eh! Eh! Eh! on the cell phone at my ear as I prayed to connect with the one I love.
The cries, pleas, reassurances of others on the street just finding out, disbelieving, shouting, “No!” as sweat built up inside my blue button-down shirt.
The soft rumbling of hundreds collected by the pier, waiting in uncharacteristic patience for the ferry, as it hushed Eastward towards us, empty.
My heart thudding in my ears when we pulled into the water. A gasp, then nothing but the hum of the engine when we saw the cloud of dust rise. And what was no longer there.
My breath slowed by force. I turned away, closed my eyes from the sun, the dust, the long golden tendril that tickled my face in the breeze of a rooftop ferry ride away from disaster.
Two days later.
Back to work.
Tentative steps were met with the fluttering posters of missing loved ones taped to buildings, poles, phone booths. Cars, windows, newspaper boxes.
The rippling of prayers, pleads and hope.
The faces and numbers. The names and smiles. The buildings and floors of where they were.
They were everywhere, because the people were nowhere.
The city, as any creature would, eventually healed.
The pulse thrummed again.
The streets rushed again.
But the fluttering, The Missing, they stay with me.
They slow my pace.
They make me lay my hand on my chest, take a deep breath, feel the thud of life inside me.
And I remember.
This post was written for Write on Edge’s RemembeRED Memoir writing prompt.
The prompt went like this:
We all have them.
Memories that we wish we could forget…things that we wish we could banish from our minds.
Imagine that writing down your worst memory will free you of it.
What is it?
Why does it haunt you?
What could you have done differently?
Write it down and let it go.
Let’s keep it to 600 words or less.
I was supposed to be in the WTC the morning of 9/11, but I wasn’t.
You could say I was saved, given a chance. For this, I am unspeakably appreciative. That I wasn’t in the thick of it. That I ended up in Midtown, rather than in the towers.
That a tiny decision changed it all.
But I feel them all. All the men and women who were lost. The faces that fluttered at me from the Missing posters as I walked to my office, my yoga class, my bus stop.
They weigh on me this time of year. I mourn them, I mourn for their families.
And I wonder: am I living a life that deserves that chance I got 10 years ago?