It is a strange thing to be a New Yorker away from home on September 11th. The anniversary is a non-issue in Japan, as would be expected, and until you write the date in your roll books you, too, might even be able to forget. And then there it is: 9/11. 9/11. 9/11. Over and over again throughout the day, on paper in black ink. Seven years ago you were a college Senior at NYU and your roommate’s aunt called while you were blow drying your hair to tell her that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. You and your roommates thought it was a Cessna. What a fool, you thought. It would be on the evening news and the pilot’s name would become a new slang term for an idiot.
Your walk to NYU was up through 5th avenue and the minute your feet hit the pavement you knew it wasn’t a Cessna. For once, there were no cars; only a swarm of people who had left the sidewalk to stand in the middle of the street and stare upwards. You saw the clouds of smoke and fire. Nobody moved; their hands frozen to their mouths. There was no honking, no sounds of construction. It was between the first plane and the second so for those moments, all was still and since it hadn’t dawned on you that the flames were the work of terrorists, you thought it was safe to head to your Archaeological Theories class.
Your professor said nothing and neither did your classmates. You half-listened to him discuss the preservative abilities of natural matter like breccia and lava. The lecture took place in a basement room so you didn’t know until the announcement came that all classes were to be evacuated and you’d started on your walk home that the towers had fallen. They had always sheltered the path to your dorm and on that first naked walk back from school, you dodged each time you saw a shadow flicker – would bombs be next? You couldn’t stop glancing over your shoulder to make sure that the towers were really, really gone.
The day starts long in Japan before the sun rises on the Eastern Seaboard and for 13 hours you do the things you’ve come to do in the 7 years since your city suffered its most violent attack. Today, you talked to your new landlord, bought the eyeshadow you’d been stalking for weeks, discussed why Japan’s Prime Ministers resign so frequently and yelled so much at Daisuke that you left the classroom with your mascara smeared down your cheeks like a member of Kiss.
You’re home and it’s midnight and the friends you got drunk with on this night, 7 years ago, come online.
“It’s the 11th,” they say.
“I know,” you respond; sobered, and at the same time, grateful that someone understands.