Between 86011 and 10048 by Ashley O’Dell
The first words I heard that morning, from my roommate: “The World Trade Center is gone.” There was no suspense sitting on her couch to watch the towers fall. Perhaps it was that threshold between awake and asleep, where anything is possible, where you’re at a party with an ex-boyfriend’s family, and the next minute you’re walking out to a Scandinavian ocean with said ex’s shoes in your hands; in that gray area, you don’t question these things. Of course I drowned; I walked into the ocean carrying shoes, not a raft. Of course the Twin Towers were gone; two planes had fatally wounded them.I couldn’t even really picture the towers; I had only been to New York once, when I was 16, a senior in high school. These days, being unable to picture the World Trade Center sounds ridiculous. We were branded so hard with that day. The certainty with which I say I will not forget September 11 makes it seem their significance should bleed back in time, too. I remembered hearing about the World Trade Center in terms of the bombing when I was a kid, but I hadn’t visited them when I was there. I had been uptown, looking at colleges, seeing Central Park, going to museums: a “can’t see the forest for the trees” situation. People in Arizona had an inescapable horizon of tall mountains. We took them for granted. In New York, instead of mountains, they had buildings. The disappearance of the towers was as strange as if the snow-capped tips of the San Francisco Peaks, tallest in the state, were gone from Flagstaff’s horizon. But there, again, is the difference between the real thing in New York and my televised experience out West. Just the word “gone” – there is no suspense. It’s like the Titanic, watching the movie with the dreamy DiCaprio boy, where you hope that somehow everything will turn out okay for him and Kate and the Irish children in third class. The Trade Center was a movie I never got to see before someone ruined the ending for me. That is how I was thinking when I got to the newsroom, about our Titanic, which we would watch all day. It is a short repeating clip; The buildings are whole, and then the plane flies into the second one, and then they fall, and then they show them whole again, and then the plane flies into the tower, and then they fall. Instead of going to our classrooms, we staffers congregated naturally in our home away from home, our messy, half-basement room with the classroom windows. I don’t remember if we brought a TV in, or if we just went upstairs to the lobby to catch CNN. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t there to watch the coverage, I was there to be assigned out into it. Why did I need to watch it again? We all had that repeating clip in our heads, not just that day, but for days after. When I walked into the newsroom that morning, I said to myself, not trying to be darkly humorous, “This is a great day for news.” “Great,” obviously, as in “awesome” “large” “huge.” It would be silly to question if I actually thought it was a “great” day as in “good.” There was no time to be pedantic; we were on deadline. We had put the paper to bed the night before, and it was due at the printer’s early that afternoon.