I met a friend recently for lunch at a park near my home, desperate for her company and encouragement. Nerves were frayed, emotions out of whack, reserve tanks anything but reserved.
I apologized in advance for my undone condition. As I attempted to articulate my very frail feelings, blaming my 4 am wake-up call after a night of worrying about my new book, her simple response was, “You’re exhausted, Jody. No wonder you’re on the brink of tears.”
“Plus, it’s almost September 11th.”
Until she voiced the obvious, I wasn’t aware that, too, was weighing on my mind.
“Our bodies have memory and you’re remembering that day.”
In September of 2001, my daughter and I were going to celebrate her graduation from culinary school with a trip to New York City. We’d arranged a 10-day visit with my nephew who lived in Brooklyn and also a meeting with Ruth Reichl, then Editor of Gourmet Magazine and author of 3 of our favorite books on cooking. The first five days in and around the city were glorious. A drive to the beach and back, subway-riding to Manhattan and the New York Public Library. Strolling through Central Park and jaunts all around Brooklyn. On the evening of September 10th, we met my nephew after work for drinks at a restaurant high atop the Marriott Hotel.
A tremendous thunderstorm came through that night. We watched in awe from our cloud-high window seats at the lightning strikes, rain storming down in buckets. When we ventured back to the street, we found the air charged with heat and pressed on through the rain. Although we got soaked, we dried out on the subway ride home. (I wrote about the kindness of the people we met that night in this poem.)
The next morning was the day of our appointment with Ruth back in Midtown at 30 Rockefeller Center. I remember the voicemail from her assistant, ‘See you at 11 on the 11th.’ The morning broke with a crystal clear blue sky, scrubbed clean from the previous nights’ storm.
And then the earth moved, the sky filled with ashes and paper glitter and we were forever changed.
As an educator I know that we remember 10% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 50% of what we see and hear, 70% of what we say, but 90% of what we do. (Romain Rolland, 1866-1944).
In other words, our deepest memories are those that come via our body, the muscle, skin and bones that take in those experiences.
With ashes falling this week throughout the Pacific Northwest region where I live, the sight of black and gray dust landing like powder on the hood of my car take me back to that morning, standing in the street while pulverized concrete and the dust of singed papers fell through the sky.
I’d rather not remember, but I can’t separate my mind from my body.
It is impossible to forget that day, which is a gift, really. Not everyone has the experience of that kind of tragedy, chaos and destruction. Sixteen years ago a generation of children weren’t even born–all they know about September 11th is what they have heard and read.
Those of us who live to tell the tale need to remind the rest of the world about those days, not because of what has been lost, but because by God’s grace we are still here, while so many, many people are not.
When I talk about the day the sky rained down glitter, I can never identify it with the shorthand of “9-11;” the day deserves every syllable of sound in the phrase—“September 11th.”
Our bodies remember.