Sunday, September 12, 2004

That 9/11 Feeling

Not that anyone would care, but September 11, 2001 will forever be etched in my mind, every detail, every sound and smell and conversation, for reasons beyond the obvious.

The horror of it all, to be sure, is a feeling that cannot be explained or categorized by one simple term. "Terrified" doesn't cut it; "sick," "sad," and "freaked out" don't encompass all of the minute zings and mini-shocks and utter helplessness involved. There is no word in the English language to describe that feeling, and I'm damned surprised that someone hasn't coined a term for this feeling, that it isn't in the new edition of Webster‘s.

Maybe I should start a trend, start using the term "nine-eleven" whenever I'm faced with crises, e.g., "Man, I'm feeling so nine-eleven right now." Admittedly, this term should be reserved only for major crises, like, for instance, if my arm should ever spontaneously combust.

It is a feeling that makes the bottom of your feet numb, your heart feel as if someone's pressing on it with their boot, your head light, as if it's attached to your neck by only a thin strand of cobweb. Well, that's how it felt for me, anyway. Very dream-like, a hypnagogic half-reality, half-nightmare experience. Yet not.

How to explain the feeling of being 4 1/2 months pregnant with the last child I will ever bear, turning on Good Morning America for a quick snippet of Charlie and Diane before going off to my ultrasound appointment, and instead of warm morning chatter to go with my coffee, I see a plane flying into the World Trade Center? We were transfixed, my husband and I, our noses inches from the screen, as if being that close would somehow make things clearer. We had to literally tear our faces away; we had an appointment to meet our baby, you see.

How to explain the feeling of driving to the doctor's office, radio blaring the obviously terrified (nine-elevened?) voices of normally wacky and upbeat D.J.s?. Another plane hit the towers. Another. Plane. Hit. The. Towers.

The United States is under attack! That's what those nine-elevened voices screamed as I rubbed my tummy and searched the skies. I patted my baby's in utero bottom, and I searched the clear blue skies while my feet went numb and someone stomped on my heart with their big fucking boot. How to explain the need to hold my children close, smell their hair? A jet flies overhead and my head feels as if it may just float out the window. I want my kids. I wantmykids, wantmykids.

There is a television set up in the doctor's office, and in between treating patients and answering phones, doctors, nurses and their staff are running into the reception room for the latest news. It is quiet, and nobody talks -- if I happen to catch someone's eye, they do not smile. S'okay, though, because I don't either.

I lie on the table, shirt hiked up to my neck, and the technician smoothes the cold blue gel over my skin, works the magic wand in a slow zigzag across my jumping belly. A nurse pops her head into the darkened room, and says simply, with lips stretched tight, "The Pentagon was just hit." She pops back into the hallway, closes the door with a quiet click. The technician shakes her head, murmurs "Jesus Christ," and continues searching my womb. There's a foot, there's a leg, an arm. A perfect head, a perfect, sweet, rapidly beating heart. Then the wand stops moving and she says to us, "You have three girls, yes?" My husband and I nod our heads, and my stomach does flips. "Well, now it's your turn, Mr. Young."

"Your turn"? What the hell does that mean?

Takes a moment or two before we realize what she’s saying. And we see the tiny, perfect penis, and we all laugh, and I cry, and the technician's eyes grow misty, and I just can't believe this day. I really can't.

The same nurse who reported on the Pentagon pops her head back into the room. "Everything okay in here?" It's apparent that the laughter and whoops of joy coming from this room have startled her; perhaps she thought we were crying out in misery. There are worry lines between her eyebrows. I tell her I'm having a boy. A boy!

Her face relaxes. She smiles and says, "There's still beauty in this world, isn't there?"

That's what she said, and it's a hokey thing to say, but at that moment, it was the most perfect thing to say.

There is no word to convey a feeling of helplesness, terror, profound sadness, joy, wonder and pure love. But I felt that feeling, and it stays with me still, and I hope to God I never feel it again.


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