in 2001, i lived with my parents in brooklyn.
i remember the morning of 9/11 well. my parents staring at the tv, crying, picking up the phone, putting it down…flipping channels.. on the tv i saw a smoke-filled city. a plane entering a tower in slow motion, a newscaster losing composure. an overplayed clip of a woman sheltering her son behind a dumpster. suited people running down a street, inaudible screaming, audible screaming. smoke and ash rather than blood and flesh.
that afternoon, i watch my parents ascend a ladder to the roof of our building – their forms outlined by a bright light that seemed to radiate from within them. they look like angels assessing the skies of hell.
from the roof our building, the city looked small, accessible. all moving things moving, all still things still. we used to lay a picnic blanket on the roof and watch fireworks on july 4th.. from there, one saw light erupt from multiple points in the city. i did not see the view on september 11th, but i often recreate this unseen imagine in my head.
because i had bad asthma when i was a kid, i was held hostage in our apartment for a few days…i’ve since realized the all-consuming dust, and ash was not the only reason i was kept in… new york post 9/11 was grim. missing signs on every flat surface, lamp posts and electrical poles resembled shrines; i thought the fading pictures, candles, and assortment of fake, dead, and fresh flowers filling all cracks in the city were beautiful – but also understood how sad the people who placed them there must have been – so i never said anything – though i expressed remorse for the dead flowers…
this past summer, the brush fires in santa anita stained the murky la skies with citrus. i imagined los angeles as a completely two-dimensional plane covered in a layer of smoke – obscuring its aerial view. i created flattened images of la in my mind and imagined myself watching them take shape in the hazy distance from the roof of my brooklyn apartment. friends in grey clothing on a green lawn against an orange sky talking about cocaine became my parents feigning calmness on a fire escape alluding to past tragedies, oncoming tragedies. a siren in the distance and i smell smoke. ambulances circle the federal building: no incident to speak of, just an accident.
i have revisited the memories countless times and they remain the most vivid o they have expanded over time, permeated my entire headspace: frequently reoccurring in my nightmares. i think about it every day, i cant help it. recently said i was obsessed with it, but didn’t mean it so literally. though my body is now an adult body and not a four year old body
i divide my memories of the event in 2 ways: linear (im taking a bath with my dad in the morning, we hear a loud BOOM, 2 minutes later my mom yells for my dad to come downstairs. i get dressed, begin walking downstairs. my mom yells, “GO BACK UPSTAIRS”. i cry, feel ignored, annoyed; wonder why no one is getting me ready for school. worry about being late, wonder if school is canceled. i watch my parents watch tv from the top of the staircase). then there is a whole range of sensory memories that surface in relation to daily occurrences. 6 firetrucks rush past on wilshire and a parallel memory has surfaced. wonder if the woman coughing across the room is choking. wonder IS SHE OKAY??