I'm up early this Sunday morning because I haven't been to sleep. As with the nights before the anniversaries of my parents' deaths, I don't sleep then either. I couldn't sleep the night before any of these awful days a decade ago.
I truly hate the wallowing that goes on every year in the media-did they really think anyone has forgotten? Especially people who live here in New York? I began spontaneously posting on Facebook. As much as I avoid talking about it, this is my generation's Pearl Harbor, Kennedy assassination-the day that hits you so hard you carry it in excruciating detail for the rest of your life.
I lived in Hoboken 10 years ago...my cat smelled the smoke and evacuated himself, jumping over the balcony and forcing me to chase him in my pajamas all the way up Washington St. He had been heading for the river. When I caught him by the PATH...we saw we had been heading the wrong way. We came from the Jersey suburbs with lots of woods. He had been put out by some heartless previous owner as a kitten and has lived semi-wild. So he knew to run if he smelled smoke.
Rocky was my late mother's cat, so I inherited him when she died that past January, I had sold the house, and we moved to a far too large apartment in a city filled with young people. Being both depressed and overwhelmed, the place was still half-filled with boxes in September, though I had moved in July first.
I had managed to doze off sometime around seven, I was totally alone for the first time in my life and often didn't rest well. The commotion my cat was making woke me. He was running in and out of the rooms crying, wailing. He came up to the bed and slapped my leg-clawed me. I noticed a strange smell coming in the ajar door to my patio. (The patio opened into the master bedroom-yes weird design, I know.) Rocky pushed the door, meowing at me to follow. When I got out there, he went to the rail and dove off. He made me chase him across half the town in my pajamas as he made his way to the river up the main street: Washington.
After I finally caught my terrified cat, I stood in the small park watching the towers burn, and the giant cloud of smoke drifting in the direction of Hoboken. I am normally good in a crisis, but I was frozen as were all those around me. People were sobbing, and breathlessly asking what had happened. No one believed the people who said it was a plane crash, I'm still unsure why. I don't know how long I stood there in shock either. When he began biting me and wrapped his body around my arm, I woke up. The smoke cloud was expanding and making its' way toward New Jersey. I ran all the way back home, shut all the doors and windows, and turned on the television. I still hadn't put Rocky down, he had climbed to my shoulders and dug his claws in my shirt. I was wearing a cat, who kept making strange crying sounds in my ear.
It was on every channel. The fire was so much worse now, then one of the Twin Towers collapsed. I called my cousin, Elaine, who said she hadn't felt this threatened and shocked since she was young listening to the attack on Pearl Harbor. We could call each other, but no one could use cell phones, or call New York. My friends in London could reach me, but not family in central Jersey. We couldn't reach my cousin, Christopher. Couldn't reach him for days. He lived in Hoboken too.
My next door neighbor was out on her patio crying. Her husband's best friend since babyhood worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, as did many people in Hoboken, back then. The man's pregnant wife was wailing on the other end of the line, certain he was dead. She was right. I came back in without a word to Marilyn, and stared at my TV again in disbelief. Then I did something, I had done as a child, and again after my mother died, I walked into my closet and closed the door. I didn't come out for a long time.
I remember the anger and confusion, and how distressing it was to be confined to Hoboken for the next few days. We were told not to leave. How every cafe and coffee shop and restaurant was filled because no one wanted to be alone. People were gathering, asking about people, worried about another wave of attacks, some talking about moving away. I recall the camaraderie and patriotism of those days, survivors supporting each other and mourning the dead. I remember every day there being a funeral, and the processions walking down the center of Washington St. becoming a parade, for everyone in the mile square city had become the deceased's neighbor and friend.
I certainly won't forget.