16 years.

Maybe it is because this year has been a particularly rough one for me and my family. Maybe it is because I am learning a lot more about my anxiety and its origins and I am realizing that as much as I've liked to claim this day had no lasting effects on me, I am realizing how wrong I was. Maybe it is because I realized that today, of all days, is not a day for me to be on social media. Maybe it is because my mom cried a little remembering how my grandfather and uncle worried about us and now my grandpa is gone.

Regardless, today I am feeling especially emotional, especially raw, and I cried a bit about the memories of today for the first time in years.

Below is a blog post I wrote six years ago about my experience on 9/11. I share it now because...this is what my mind remembers, continues to remember, each anniversary. 

On September 12th, 2001, I sat in the backseat of the car. My mother and grandmother sat up front. In the trunk was everything we could fit and everything I would need for my first few days back at boarding school. We couldn't fit everything. We weren't supposed to be driving this car. This car was my dad's, loaned to us for the day in order to get me up to New Hampshire. We were supposed to be driving my grandparents' minivan.

But that car was stuck in lower Manhattan.

On September 11th, 2001, my mom, grandmother and I got up early and drove to Brooklyn. I had a dentist's appointment. I was hoping that today would be the day I got my braces off. I was excited. Later that day, we would drive up to NH, I would see my friends, start my sophomore year of high school and I would show off my braceless face.

By 8:40am, I was already upset. My braces stayed on. This was not the plan. Not the plan at all. I got back in the car, arms folded, and sulked. The icing on the cake: my mom had a meeting at her office on Wall St. My grandmother and I were to wait for her and then we'd travel to NJ, load up the car, and get on the road. The sulking continued.

In car, we listened to the radio. Someone mentioned a fire at the World Trade Center. Someone said a plane had gone into it. Someone said, "What kind of an idiot would accidentally fly into the World Trade Center?" A firetruck flew by us.

We parked in Lower Manhattan. I got out of the car and looked at the building in front of me. It was 9:03am. All of a sudden there was a loud noise. My hands flew to my ears before I even realized what was going on. It was a sort of zoom sound, like in an action movie, and then an explosion. I then ran to the street corner and saw the other tower had been hit.

Those around me began a dialogue of 'oh my gods', 'my friend works there', 'this has to be an attack', 'the sears tower has been hit', etc. At some point, my mother went to her meeting. At some point, I was able to make a phone call to my grandfather and my uncle who were home watching it all on TV. At 9:37am, the Pentagon was hit, but I wouldn't know this until the evening. My grandmother and I walked around for a bit, listening to the conversations, gathering information. We then settled back at the car, on the street corner, looking up.

'Those buildings are very strong,' a man said behind me. 'They can withstand a lot.'

Less than a minute later, at 9:59am, the south tower fell.

Less than 30 seconds after that, I heard, "Oh shit." I looked forward and saw a cloud of dust and debris coming toward me.

I ran.

And then I realized that my 82 year old grandmother couldn't run. So we walked. The cloud engulfed us. Papers from Cantor Fitzgerald and other offices lined the streets. A pair of navy blue pumps had been abandoned. You couldn't see the sun. And, for the first time, I realized that this, everything that had happened, was a sign of something major going on. And I realized that this could just be the beginning. And I realized that at 15 years old, I could very well die.

What happened after I remember in snapshots. Walking toward the South Street Seaport. My grandmother refusing to go any further until we found my mother. Two men stopping to ask if we were okay and to calm me down. Me praying to god, telling him it would be okay if I died. That I understood I was lucky to have lived as long as I had. At some point, the north tower fell. Walking into the South Street Seaport and waiting in line at a Banana Republic which let people use their landline phone. My uncle answering the phone, "Charly?!" when I finally got through. Waiting even longer for my mother who eventually found us. Walking through the empty, dust-laden streets. Hearing and watching F15s fly other head. Calling my dad and letting him know that, unbeknownst to him, I was in Lower Manhattan. Fighting with my mom and grandmother who wanted to stay with the car since they didn't know what would happen to it. A tug boat to NJ. Being washed off by men in Hazmat suits. A bus. A sign in the window that said the end is near. Another bus. Walking home. Stepping out of my clothes and showering, but not washing my hair. Listening to Bush speak and being scared of his words.

And then it was September 12th and I was in the backseat of a car. I spent the over 5 hours in the car writing. I wrote down every detail I could remember about the day before. Pages and pages of my experience on September 11th, 2001 .The journal, I believe, was in a box in my father's basement, which means it was destroyed in his flood.

 10 years later and I am still writing. I am not sure if that matters or not. What matters was that I wrote it all down today and 10 years ago, got it all out. Writing about it has helped me understand it...well, as much as anyone could...and I guess it is my version of never forgetting. We write to create, to escape, but we also write to remember.

 

storyteller

i am on a train back from d.c. 

i spent the week working on my play, jump, at the kennedy center.

the week was amazing. 

but as i sit here, just miles from nyc, i am struck with one memory in particular.

a black actor came up to me after the reading of my play. i had gone up to introduce myself to him earlier in the day when i learned we had a mutual friend. when i turned to him i saw that he had tears in his eyes. my play is sad so i thought that may be it. but as he spoke, and i am paraphrasing, he expressed how wonderful it was to see black actors able to play roles that dealt with grief and family in a real, non-stereotypical way. we don't always get to play those roles.

we don't always get to see ourselves in this light. 

all week, at lunch meetings with different groups of theater folk, i said that one of my aims was to create work that showed people of color living their lives, dealing with the same things that white characters have always gotten to unpack. i wanted to create roles for people like me. people who hurt and who harm and who laugh and who cry and who are complicated and who are people of color. 

i've been saying this but it didn't hit me how important and how committed i am to that until this actor came up to me. as a playwright, i am tasked with the job of creating the world, creating the container, posing the question, crafting the situation...and what a powerful job that is. what a magical job that is.

what an important job that is. 

this past week at the kennedy center was really great. one day i'll have to write about it. but for now, know i learned once again why i am doing this.

why it is important to push past my comfort zone and get my work out there.

because it matters. we matter. our stories matter.

and i am so incredibly grateful that i am able to be one of our storytellers.

some words for today

originally written on my personal facebook page.

this morning i am thinking about being a woman of color. and i am thinking about the small things that happen to me on a daily basis--how my body is ignored on a daily basis and how an older white woman pushed me and my bag while i simply waited for the subway the other day and how when expressing myself i've been called irrational and how i continue to be both sexualized and desexualized and how i often have to find proof for the things i know to be true despite others just being believed, how i change my voice and mannerisms when shopping, etc.. and i am thinking of how small these things feel to me...how normal and everyday they feel...and yet i keep thinking how these small things are signs of/grow into bigger things, and bigger beliefs, and bigger prejudices, and bigger and bigger. and i am thinking about the women of color who lost their lives this weekend--one for practicing her faith and another for calling for help--and the ones the weeks and months and years before that--for changing lanes without signaling, for being transgender, for loving who they love, etc. etc. and...

i am just thinking about it all this morning. 
thinking
and thinking
and thinking
and feeling
feeling it all
looking at my body
and feeling
and thinking
and feeling.