9/11 by Anonymous, Paris

BLOG,Paris,September 11 September 6, 2011 15:36

We take our second step into the 9/11 week. We have an anonymous contributor from Paris who spins an engaging tale of the impact 9/11 had on his or her personal life. This story makes you aware of spaces; it maps different parts of the world while retaining its focus on the main event. And that one particular spot, even though it was only a shadow of the majestic towers it once housed, reigns supreme as it dictates the importance this author delegates to the life lived before this event. A slight spoiler alert: read the story and note your reaction at the prophetic line muttered by the greasy-haired woman.

In the spring of 2001, I lived on an island off the Atlantic coast of South America. There was little to do except fish for crabs and dodge evangelists. Life has rarely been quieter since.

The islanders varied. Some were sullen fishermen, originally from the Azores. Some were juice-drinking surfers, there for three-meter waves and slabs of empty coastline the width of towns. Others just lived there, or had washed up there; they were a curious bunch, unaware of the mainland, let alone other countries, and uniquely loquacious at bus stops.

One woman had greasy hair and a faded Pink Floyd tea shirt. As she sucked and chewed on maté from a calabash, the silver straw seemed to fill her not with tea, but with fury.

“All of this is shit: it’s all just shit. It’s evil. People are evil.”

Mutter, mutter, chew, spit. It was almost comforting in its classical form and familiar theme.

I waited for the punch-line, the inevitable solution proffered by Jesus, The Book of Mormon, The Goddess Iemanja.

“What we need is a good war. A big old war to clean all this shit out.”

I got my bus; she remained, sitting on a plastic chair outside a shop where you could buy a single cigarette for 5 cents.


I returned to Europe to wipe tables, mop up beer and gather the damp spaghetti strands of my brain together, in preparation for a university course I that had given no thought to during the previous year. I was 19.

The bar was quiet that afternoon, when my boss sat down before a mute television and began to whisper and stutter. I looked up at a screen I had never noticed before, at a news channel that was playing the silent film of the century. I couldn’t understand why everything had stopped, why silence filled the space, as people gathered around that table and why no one turned the sound up.

In a small town, an ocean away from that plane, from that building folding like a broken chalk, surely we were OK? Fine and saddened and ultimately unaffected?

Ten days later I left to live in a capital city on high alert, livid with terror and immediately, fatally entwined in that day, those buildings, those planes. My adult life began; I learned. Everything started. I look back now and rummage in my memory for snatches of what it was like before that summer, how it felt. To be honest, there’s little to be had, just scraps, a few flimsy notions of the world- a
few conversations snatched from bus stops.

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