Six Degrees of Sadness
They say there are six degrees of separation.
“Everyone is on average approximately six steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person on Earth,..” ~ Wikipedia
I believe this to be true. One way or another, we’re all connected; especially when it comes to what happened on 9/11. Looking back, I’m certain that so many of us, knew somebody or knows somebody who knew somebody.
I knew somebody.
So many years later I still can’t talk about that day without becoming overwhelmed with emotion. I know I’m not alone.
Writing about it is almost as difficult.
I tried to think of something else to write about this week but the memories of that day are at the forefront of my mind and heart right now. I wouldn’t attempt to try to write about the profound loss of our sons and daughters, fathers and husbands, mothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, colleagues and friends.
All week long there’s been articles, photos, video, reports and documentaries reliving those events. I didn’t watch them.
I still can’t.
The point of contact between the planes and all three buildings is indelibly embedded in my mind.
I don’t want to see it again — ever.
There were however, a few poignant moments when I was alone that day that will linger in my mind’s eye forever; moments that caused me to pause and take notice; moments that changed my life.
I was at home with my two children; my daughter who was 6-months and my son who was 2 ½ years-old. I had the TV on, although I don’t remember what I was watching. It was interrupted by “live coverage” of the first Tower, just after it was hit by the first plane.
It seemed unlikely, odd. I couldn’t fathom the possibility of it. I was trying to make sense of what I was hearing when something surreal and horrific happened.
I watched the second plane hit the second Tower.
I remember being very confused and thinking…
“What are they doing? How are they showing something that just happened a few minutes ago?
How could somebody get this video?”
And as quickly as the thoughts passed through my mind, it hit me.
This couldn’t be video tape from the first plane because I could still see the black smoke coming from first Tower. This was live coverage. This plane was hitting the second Tower. It was a second plane crashing into the second tower and it was happening, right now!
My eyes could see the events unfolding but my mind couldn’t comprehend their reality. I could hear the reporter in the background saying with disbelief, that this was happening right now but I didn’t understand.
There were so many surreal moments that day.
Later, as I sat on our porch smoking a cigarette trying to process what I had just seen on television, I had the realization that my life, our lives as we knew them would never be the same. An overwhelming feeling of sadness slowly began to overtake the initial feelings of horror and fear that I had. Understanding of what I saw, found its way to my brain. Now, when I recall that slow, creeping feeling of sadness, I think about how Ron Weasley described the presence of the Dementors on the Hogwarts Train;
“I felt weird, like I’d never be cheerful again”.
That’s what it was like for me. I couldn’t imagine being cheerful again.
While I sobbed uncontrollably for what happened, for what I saw and for what I felt, the deafening sound of silence surrounded itself around me. The quiet in the skies was unsettling. The more I noticed it, the louder it became. You don’t notice or really pay attention to the activity in the skies until it ceases. It gave me a sense of isolation which created a fear in me, I’ve never experienced before. I will never forget that haunting, echoing sound of nothing when no plane was allowed to fly in our otherwise free, blue skies.
On the porch that day, while my babies napped peacefully, I smoked a cigarette and mourned for the feeling of security I didn’t realize I had until I lost it, a feeling I knew my children would never know.
For weeks afterward, the winds carried the smell of death up the Hudson River. It was a smoldering, horrific stench that sat, heavy in the air. Unlike anything I’ve ever smelled before, or since, it was a foul and constant reminder of the devastation and loss our nation suffered.
There are six degrees of separation, they say. Six people between you and I, as strangers before an introduction. The world we live in is a small one. One way or another, we’re all connected.
I knew Somebody.
We all knew somebody.
Photo Credit #1: Six Degrees of Separation
Photo Credit #2: World Trade Center
Photo Credit #3: Connected