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10 years

10 years ago today I was in the cafeteria at college in Phoenix, AZ, having breakfast with my best friend. We always got there early, before almost anyone else, and we enjoyed the peace and quiet. Then someone turned on the TV in the TV pit. Arizona doesn't do daylight savings time, so we were three hours off the East Coast, three hours behind New York.

We thought it was a horrible accident, and then the second plane hit. I called home (the apartment) on my dinky little prepaid cellphone and told Sis (roommate, heartsister, mother of my virtual nephew, no actual relation) to turn on the TV. I think I wound up leaving a message, because she wasn't up yet or something. This was, unless I mistake my guess, right around when she was quitting school. I can't remember whether she already had or whether it was yet to come. My best friend tried calling home on his cellphone. I remember being a little annoyed that he hadn't given me his cellphone number, but the phone networks were already starting to get saturated and he couldn't get through.

I ran in to the computer lab as soon as it opened at 7 our time. I think I send some reassuring email to my parents. I updated LJ. I remember that President Bush was having storytime with some kids, and he finished out the storytime calmly before leaving the school. I did not like Bush, but I was impressed with that. If at all possible, you don't panic the children. I tried to track down everyone I knew who might have been in New York, all friends from camp. (Everyone I knew was safe.)

I came back to the cafeteria. A crowd gathered; the crowd kept gathering as we sat there. My best friend must have held my seat. I don't remember who-all joined us at the table; the table sat four and there were the two of us. I remember my best friend's pretty dark-haired web development teacher standing and sobbing. I remember taking notes in my paper journal about what had happened and when. People came in and were confused, and I looked through my notes and got any misconceptions that I heard straightened out, since I was glued to the news. If there's nothing else I can do in an emergency, I can at least keep facts straight.

I was aware that my face was tight and pale, and that I was talking in an unnatural monotone. I kept on taking notes, even though my hand was sometimes shaking too hard to write. My best friend was next to me and he held on to my other arm. No one knew why this was happening or what would happen next, but we had each other.

I don't think anyone attended classes that day. He went back home and so did I. We were going to give blood but that turned out not to work out due to timing/transportation. Various friends gathered; everyone there was some flavor of pagan, and Sis led us in prayer. It was the LF's birthday, but everybody was in too much shock to feel like celebrating anything. (We had a party a few days later. He was five. The precise day didn't matter that much at that point.)

In the evening there was news, with Bush speaking. I think we'd been trying to tape the news but it just got to be too much, and I flipped the display back and forth between Bush and Barney the Purple Dinosaur, finally cackling at the ridiculousness of it all. Between all the bottled-up fury and the channel-switching abuse, the ancient TV decided it had had quite enough, thank you, and quit working. So that was it for that.

By the next day I had collected my thoughts enough to dig up a quote, from Bujold's Komarr: "So the difference between a criminal and a hero is the order in which their vile crimes are committed. And justice comes with a sell-by date. In that case, you'd better hurry. You wouldn't want your heroism to spoil."

There was a memorial a few days later at school, and I was finally able to cry.


The next year, there was another ceremony. I hid in the computer lab and covered my ears. I was afraid of what might happen if I let myself listen. The monotheism had been bad enough the first year. I still try not to think about everything. I'm not well-aimed enough to do much good, and I know myself well enough to know it would be a way to burn myself out into gibbering incoherence, and I don't need to rebuild my brain again. I support those in right action that I can, and try to keep myself in right thought. I was raised Quaker, and I look at the hate posing as Christianity, and I despair.

The only thing I want to remember about that day, the only thing I allow myself to think about, is the way my best friend and I were standing by each other while we were powerless to stop any of the horror. Every year I renew my determination to stand by him when the shit goes down. We keep each other stable and whole.

I called him today. It's Sunday, my usual day for calling him, but I had to talk to him even if it hadn't been Sunday. Neither of us mentioned the date. No matter what fuckery goes down, we're here for each other. If I'm not strong enough to get through something on my own, he's strong enough to drag me through it; if he's not strong enough, I will be strong for him and we will get through whatever the fuck the world throws at us.

Crossposted. comment count unavailable comments.
Gone away, gone ahead,
Echoes roll unanswered.
Empty, open, dusty, dead.
Why have all the Weyrfolk fled?

Where have dragons gone together
Leaving weyrs to wind and weather,
Setting herdbeasts free of tether;
Gone, our safeguards, gone, but whither?

Have they flown to some new weyr
Where cruel Threads some others fear?
Are they worlds away from here?
Why, oh why the empty weyr?

-- "The Question Song", Anne McCaffrey
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