I remember the shocked zombie walk across the East River, covered in dust and ash, the debris we couldn’t bear to think about. I remember all of us instinctively cowering as each Army plane screamed overhead, then, in wordless accord, getting up and silently trudging on like we were walking to our doom. I remember making our way across the Manhattan Bridge drinking champagne from the bottle and smoking a hundred cigarettes, my dear friend Stephanie right there with me. I remember being filled with futile, irrational anger at the gorgeous weather. The end of the world couldn’t happen on a beautiful day, could it?
When we got across the bridge to Brooklyn, I remember scanning all the cops we passed for a familiar face, finally grabbing one poor overwhelmed officer by her collar brass and screaming “Where is she?” She called into her radio, “Park Sergeant on the air?” And I remember the response, the three best words I’ve ever heard, before or since. I heard “On the air” in my beloved’s voice, the voice I loved, and I remember nearly swooning with shock and relief. I held onto Stephanie and cried then, for the first time that day. Like everyone else, I didn’t stop crying for weeks, for months. I’m crying now, even though I was one of the lucky ones. Even though she’s sitting right here next to me. It’s impossible to think about the horrors of that day and the days that followed and not cry.
I am one of the very, very lucky ones, and beyond all else, beyond the horror and the terror and the feeling of violation, and the depression and the fear and funerals that followed, my good fortune, really, my dumb luck is what I remember. And I am grateful.