Kage Baker didn’t like to commemorate death dates. Birthdays, anniversaries, the peak day of some notable person’s accomplishment: yes indeed, observed with pomp and circumstance and some appropriate cocktail.
But not death dates. Not for friends, not for family, not for national or global memorials. She thought about them; but she didn’t feel a loss needed or deserved to be remembered. And I must admit, it’s not exactly jolly to recall losing someone you love – the exception being Halloween and All Saints, when we honoured the beloved dead with candy, ceremonial meals, and cookies frosted to look like skeletons and zombies.
On September 11th … we flew the flag. Kage lit candles daily; if she added a special prayer for the victims of the World Trade Center destruction, that was her business. We never forgot. We both remembered the day clearly. But we had both passed the need for public mourning. Some things hurt enough that you don’t need to bring out sack cloth and ashes; professional mourners can go unused. Because you never actually stop grieving.
I was taking Kage to her day job when we saw the first footage of the plane impacts – we had stopped at our favourite indie coffee house, the Black Pearl, to fortify ourselves for the day. And as we were paying, the endless loop of the first plane ramming into the first tower ran over and over on the telly on the back counter.
We drove off stunned. Before I made it home, the second tower was similarly rammed by the second plane. Within the hour, the third plane hit the Pentagon. Then the towers began their devastating collapse. And then the fourth plane was retaken from the high jackers by the passengers, and crashed in a field as the crew and passengers fought (successfully and heroically) to prevent the high jackers from accomplishing their ends.
Everything after that on that beautiful September morning was just endless loops of whatever film the news agencies and television networks could get their hands on: the zombie survivors, grey with ash from head to foot, staggering out of the zone of destruction. The appalling jumpers, who chose to chance a miracle in exchange for a last breath of clean air and a death less horrible than being burned alive. The refugees pouring on foot across the bridges, determined to find their ways home on foot if they had to. The spreading flames, the growing pile of bodies, debris and … pieces.
The endless echoing void on the other ends of our phone lines, as we -along with 300 million other Americans – tried to find out if our loved ones in New York were all right. We crashed the phone lines all on our own.
No wonder Kage never wanted to see or hear any of that again.
Not wanting to see it again, though, doesn’t mean we forgot, nor that I do so now. It’s just that my available space to store such images (and remain sane) has been filled. My quota of sorrow has been met. That doesn’t mean, I know, that life will stop handing me sorrows: I found that out 3 1/2 years ago. But I don’t go out of my way to watch the film anymore.
In my mind, after all, the towers are still falling, and the sky is filled with burning clouds.
Requietus in pace