(this essay is my Huffington Post featured 10th anniversary piece, updated and re-edited for today: 9/11/2012)
I recall an old college buddy’s candid observations of 11 years ago. He spoke of the bizarre and grotesque memory of a plane crashed into the idyllic morning of downtown New York City. How when the planes hit, all he recalled to me that body parts raining down onto the streets and sidewalks. This macabre description transferred his imagery and etched it to my own as I watched far more “safely” from about 30 blocks away in midtown that fateful day. His experience started to mesh to my own.
He described the panic as an all-too-slow realization that the buildings were falling from those people who had come far too close, he and his future wife included. As the towers fell, people raced over one another to get away in sheer animal-like panic. He described as a mad race, where those they passed-by in that scramble did not make it.
He said that the debris filled the air so thick it was like sand. He described it as is trying to put your face into a beach and attempting to take deep breaths. Dust was thick and choking. Those panicked survivors found it impossible to get even a breath for what seemed an eternity. Imagine escaping that crazed lunacy of the buildings falling only to feel that you are now suffocating, covered in that white miasma.
He walked in a dull shock along with so many others crossing the bridge into Brooklyn. His visage can be seen from in some newspaper photo, his girlfriend beside him holding a just as bewildered small dog. I’d find the photo, but I do not even want to see it again. It is part of those memories that come tumbling out each time a year.
11 years and we are still gone. Not just those who died. It is all of us who survived.
It is all those who stare at ground zero and still see the open gaping wound reflect what inside of us. Lost souls still wandering looking for home,
We all who survive (wherever we were that day) are left to pick up pieces of the scrambled reality and face the cold hard fact that nothing would be the same again.
Nothing has been the same, illusions and facades dropped like a house of cards. Since then, those cards have been blown off the table.
We who survived 9/11 have not walked very far from those towers fall. Where an area still sits waiting to be rebuilt is no different than our shattered psyches and memories that still leave us haggard and covered in a foul dust even years after. Where each year high-powered lights blaze to fill that empty space to show the ghosts of two towers in the night’s sky. Yet what fills the space in our empty hearts and minds since then? What light straightens our staggered souls?
That idyllic morning is far-gone. That halcyon daze of being outside the whims and schemes of religious zealots tumbled along with each floor of the towers that morning. The pitch-black smoke of jet fuel melting metal, people, offices, and building material has fouled far more than a morning air. For in 11 years we are no different than those on an exodus from Manhattan, trudging along with sour acrid air filling raw lungs and throats, while covered with soot and detritus.
We as a nation need to realize that 9/11 still is a national gaping wound. It lies unfinished like so many other things that America used to stand for before two jets slammed into the Twin Towers. A lethargy and heavy weight still drags upon us as a country and a people.
It remains a massive albatross around the neck of a beleaguered nation, only perhaps assuaged by the recent death of Bin Laden. The deadly dust only just recognized as a official medical issue covered only one day ago by the courts…11 years later.
What a long and crazy journey we have come as a nation. Time is supposed to heal all wounds they say. Instead, it has been more like Groucho Mark’s remark: ”Time wounds all heels” Our feet still are tired and hurt, no different to those walking that bridge.
As a nation we trod on as rhetoric drops out of mouths of those who are all together too far removed to our new reality.
We are a doomed generation; unable to heal, move on, press forward, or even get off that bridge between the worlds we live in: one side, the oblivious pre-911 naïve world we thought we were standing in… the other, a harshly magnified reality that we have been in since.
Each year that we fail to move, the gaping wound grows bigger, further separating who we are and who we were.
One day, we might not even recognize who we were on that other side.
About the Author: B.D. Gallof is a published writer and hockey blogger. He writes about Hockey, NY Islanders & the NY Islanders venue situation for CBS New York. BD has been written up in Sports Illustrated, TSN.ca, the NY Times Slapshots blog, Yahoo's Sports and SportsBusiness Journal. He has been a featured blogger for The Huffington Post, as well as owner, lead writer, and managing editor at HockeyIndependent.com.