Posted May 2, 2011on:
What you are about to read does not represent my best work. I will not edit it. I will not rearrange the paragraphs. I will not check it for spelling errors. I will not do any of these things because I want this short piece to represent the way I feel right now, my exact state of mind on Monday, May 2, 2011 at 11:33 AM. Like any other Monday at 11:33 AM, I am at work, and my work is relatively demanding. But this is not any other Monday, and I cannot focus on my work today, because my thoughts are in another time, and everything I have seen and heard to day has impelled me to relive that time, like a famililar smell, like a forgotten melody.
What I have seen specifically is an interpretation of events that does not resonate with me. There has been collective joy, patriotic chanting, and assertions of national superiority. In short, the day has been an emotional replica of 3,520 days ago, a day on which our populus interpreted historic events as a commentary on America.
At the time, I was unable to interpret the events in this fashion. This is because I lived on East 9th St., at the corner of Avenue A. I do not remember feeling that my country or my freedom or my social contract were under attack. I remember leaving my basement apartment for a black sky. I remember not being able to breathe. I remember not being able to get in touch with my roommate for 8 hours. I remember an empty Canal St. I remember not being able to cry. I remember fearing that I would die.
In short, I never felt that my country was under attack. I felt, rather, that my home was under attack. That day, I felt that my home was being bombed and that I and everyone I loved might be dead by the end of the day. In the coming days, I feared breathing in the open air. In the coming months, I lived in a perpetual state of low-level anxiety, knowing that I would not make it crosstown if I did not get on the bus and fearing that I might not make it anyway. In the coming years, I would move to Chicago, and I would tell people that this was simply for a “change of scenery,” when in fact I needed to be in the center of the country, away from the shores, away from New York, just to feel safe.
Of course, now I have gotten past all that. I live in Brooklyn now, and I would not have it any other way. But I will always feel, in the shadowed corners of my mind, that I am taking a risk. Just by living. I am taking a risk.
And so, I want you to understand: I am happy that Osama bin Laden is dead. I am not ashamed of that. I am not ashamed to be happy that another man is dead. But I cannot wave a flag, or chant “USA,” or discuss the political implications for my president, or even discuss it with my family. Because this event is the other side of that event, and I see through to the other side. For America, both of these days were and are about America. But for me, and I imagine for many of those who lived through September 11, 2001 in the city of New York, it is not. It is about fragility and pain and fear. It is about mortality.
I do not begrudge those whose reaction today has been different than my own, nor do I judge them harshly. We are all entitled to experience our emotions in a personal, private way, even if that way is to make them public. I just want them to know: this is why I will not be joining in. It is all simply too much.
L.V. Lopez is co-editor of Frontier Psychiatrist. He awoke that morning with his girlfriend, now wife, in her home on 120th St. He could not reach his parents for 12 hours.