“9/11” by Noah Wunsch, NYC

September 11 October 26, 2011 02:47

topic; 9/11 medium: TEXT

as submitted for the “9/11” Open Call

I was half dozing when the voice played over the PA, “All classes are to report to the lunchroom immediately.” Mrs. Harris, our history teacher, rolled her eyes, clearly irritated with the interruption of American History. “What kind of nonsense is this about?” “Probably another announcement about whoever’s been stealing from lockers,” someone replied. Over the last few weeks, an unknown peer had been going from purple locker to gray locker, clicking the latches and raiding the contents. “Waste of time,” Mrs. Harris muttered. “Well, come on then. Let’s go.” We got up and walked down the upper school stair case, 5th floor to 2nd. Kids pushed each other and laughed. They Thanked God they didn’t have to sit through their entire class, or cursed Him for interrupting their study hall. We were told to sit down by grade and to be quiet. Mr. Davidson, the school principal stood in front of the school, his eyes tired, his hair neatly parted. “I have a serious announcement to make,” the school groaned. This is how they all started. We had, had three previous “serious announcements” about the thefts, and it seemed unlikely the culprit would ever be caught. “At approximately 8:46 a plane flew into the World Trade Center.” I don’t know why, but my first reaction was to look at Mrs. Harris. Her hand covered her mouth and her eyes were fogged over. I wanted to yell at her. To tell her that she was stupid. That she was so stupid for saying that the announcement was a waste of time. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. “We are unaware if this was a direct attack on the United States or an airline mishap, but we are canceling classes for the rest of the day.” The room wasn’t quiet. It was a buzz of white noise. Horrible fragments connecting into a monologue. “I can’t believe this-happened for a reason-but it doesn’t make any sense-doesn’t your-mom works on the 56th floor-of the second tower, they said it was the-first is the one on the right or-left wing is going to freak, this-is going to start a-it’s not going to start a-who do you think it was-Saddam, for fucking-sure it’s nothing, just an airline mishap.” It wasn’t a mishap. It did lead to a war. It wasn’t Saddam. The city that never sleeps was suddenly caught in a horrible nightmare. Streets were empty, aside from debris and flashing lights of red, white and blue. I was in 7th grade. I had just memorized Patrick Henry’s famous, “Give me liberty or give me death,” speech. This seemed important. Everything that year seemed so much more important. Connected. But the America we had been taught in history, full of rebellion for freedom had evolved from “give me liberty or give me death,” to “wanted dead or alive.” The same day as the attacks, Osama bin Laden aired a video over international media, proudly confessing that he was behind the attacks on America. On the front page of the New York Times the next day, ran the headline, “President Vows to Exact Punishment for ‘Evil.’”

It was still dark out when I awoke on May 2nd, 2011. 3:30 AM was not a time I was used to arising, but I had a plane to catch. I fumbled around the hotel room for the light switch, made my way into the bathroom, and showered the dull sleep off my body. I toweled myself off and double-checked that I had everything packed. My bullet pen was in my carry-on. I was wary of its signification after almost being arrested in Mexico for having it on my person, but figured if it made it to Tampa, it’d probably make it back. A knock on the door grabbed my attention. Eric, my brother, had slept in his girlfriends room last night, making an early morning zombie walk back to the room. I opened the door and looked into the face of an Arab man. White turban atop his head. Long gray beard streaming from his string bean face. Osama bin Laden. Eric lowered the paper and handed it to me. “OSAMA BIN LADEN DEAD.” There it was, simply stated in an incomplete sentence. Osama bin Laden dead. My brain kicked gears, trying to figure out how to react. In all honesty, I had sort of forgotten about bin Laden. Even after hearing the Friday before, that the country safety level had been changed from five levels to simply: EVIDENT DANGER or IMMINENT DANGER. It almost felt as though bin Laden had departed along with the Bush administration. Yet there he was, on the front of a newspaper at four in the morning. Dead. It seemed Eric didn’t know how to react either, “Weird, right?” he said. I nodded. “Well… Good, I guess?” I suggested. He shrugged and got ready.

Every newspaper had his face on it. Killed. Dead. Missile. Gun. Bullet. GOD. BLESS. AMERICA. “For all of you out there, who probably heard the news today,” the stewardess announced as the plane landed. “I think we can all say this with a bit more heart today. God bless America.” I looked around the plane. A few people nodded, but for the most part everyone looked confused. Did it mean more? Why? Revenge? Was the world safer? It somehow felt more dangerous. In the cab ride back to the city, every cop car we passed, every ambulance or fire engine seemed a bit more urgent than they had in the last ten years. More noticeable in someway. And people on the street appeared angry. “I’m glad that son of a bitch is dead,” I heard a businessman say, walking down the street. In Union Square I passed a little girl and her mother. “Smile honey!” The girl grinned wide, holding up The New York Post, Osama’s face on the cover, “ROT IN HELL,” scrawled over it. By the stairs people were cheering, and screaming out patriotic slogans. On the news, wives of firefighters lost in the attack were interviewed. “I do feel some degree of closure,” one woman said. “But I feel a bit bitter that we didn’t get to see a body. I would’ve really liked to see him dead.” She didn’t say this insinuating she wanted proof he wasn’t alive. She simply wanted to see his dead body. The channel changed to ESPN and there Charles Barkley was, “Hell yeah! America should feel good about itself. Osama sent those planes over here and killed thousands of Americans. He did other bad stuff too.” The Sportcenter anchor nodded his head and quickly fired off, “Lakers, Blazers, thoughts?” Charles smiled, “Lakers are gonna crush it.”

I felt immovable, unshaken, untouched. As a New Yorker I felt guilty and innocent for not really feeling anything. I had opinions on the death, the way it was carried out, but I didn’t feel joy because of it. I didn’t feel more American. I took to the internet, thinking maybe I had missed something. Typing in Osama bin Laden into google news, pages and pages came up about his death. The first three links were about what Paris Hilton thought about it. I closed my computer, giving up there.

It’s been a few days and I still don’t feel anything. I feel uncomfortable with the way Americans have celebrated his death, but feel numbed out by the media coverage. Everyone has an opinion. A voice. People who know nothing about politics, or even real life, talk about the good ol’ boy hardships. The Bravo channel family starts up, with the Real Housewives in American flag dresses. E! attacks with the Kardashians twittering for joy. Bigger celebrities step to light and speak through publicists, and none of this would matter so much if the number for nightly news viewership weren’t decreasing exponentially every day. Even with the cheers USA wide, I think there’s an unspoken fear that no ones touching on. Saddam Hussein is dead. Osama bin Laden is dead. Who can we hate now?

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