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My 9/11 Story

When 9/11 happened, it was one week before the first anniversary of my big sister’s murder. I was at work, supervising with the company then holding the concessions license with the Louisville zoo.

It was much slower than expected for a normal weekday, the occasional customer mentioning how Camp David had been bombed, etc, with 2/3 of everything I was hearing later proved bupkiss. Eventually the general manager came along and told me to close up shop. I brought my cash drawer to the head office to sign out, and the main kitchen staff were huddled around a tiny black and white TV intended for camping. Lots of panicked debate. What’s our closest target, Fort Knox? Would they know the last of the gold was spent back in the 70s?

When they started talking about possibilities for a draft, I went walking around the mostly deserted park. There were a pair of bald eagles on site at the time, one missing half a wing and the other missing a whole wing, thanks to hunters who probably saw themselves as otherwise patriotic. I had a joint in my pocket for the long walk home, but I lit up in their presence, an enclosure of chain-link fence without need for a roof or ceiling. I earnestly tried giving them a contact buzz. Not to be cute then, or now. Security cameras surely caught my act of sympathy. It just seemed the thing to do.

I had been couch-surfing with a couple of younger cousins at the time, and came home to find them already falling down drunk. After a few hours of morbid cable news, we took my USA flag which I inherited from my Korean War vet grandpop’s funeral and streaked across the Watterson Expressway. I’d been blurbed in James Zambroski’s short-lived Snitch newspaper at least a couple of times in the past for doing this, although I’d never been caught. Early 20s, not earning nearly enough to be a proper alcoholic and still dealing with the loss of my sister, I had to vent where I could. That evening, our fourth flatmate showed up from his day spent at a job that wouldn’t cut people loose even for national emergency, and I got him to give me a lift to where my mom was in town on a week-long nanny gig, for a young mother out of town herself on a religious retreat. I collapsed in her arms, depleted, drunk and sobbing, saying how every person on every one of those planes was somebody’s Rebecca.

That was how I spent 9/11.

Weeks later, my college professor of philosophy uncle wrote to inform me the sister of one on his former students, who was formerly a friend of mine, had been on one of the planes to hit the WTC. He wanted me to reach out with personal experience to help her cope. This girl, along with everyone else of that ivy league circle, had completely shut me out weeks after my own sister’s death, unable to find reason in prolonged mourning. So I wrote to her, assuring her that time would only be salt in the wound.