I was living in Asia at the time of 9/11. The 14-hour time difference meant I was walking into my local video shop as I often did in the evening. The clerk usually had the latest stuff playing on the store's video monitors, so when I saw the sight of the World Trade Center buildings collapsing I casually asked what the movie was. He looked at me grimly and said it wasn't a movie. I hurried back home and tried to call my family in NY. The lines would be tied up for days.
Everyone has their day when the world just collapses. Afterward, everyone is forced to reckon and remember. For me, 1/1/04 was the day I was deported back to America for being HIV+. For the first few years on the successive 12/31s, I turned out the lights, hid under the covers to block out the merriment and just cried myself to sleep. Strangely, I found myself seeking solace in the cold, gloomy skies the following morning. The past few years, however, while I haven't quite been able to get out and find a New Year's party, I do find myself awake. Glad to be awake. Making an accounting of how I feel my outlook on life has changed. How I have tried to make a difference in the world. Slowly but surely, what used to be a time of grief and solitude has turned into something more reflective, more peaceful. This is not to say that I don't find myself grieving about having lost my former life. I still grieve. And at the oddest times. The sounds of Belle & Sebastian in Starbucks today made me long for the streets of Seoul. Southern All Stars takes me back to Taipei. Paul Smith stirs up memories of Tokyo.
I hope everyone who lost someone on 9/11 will eventually make it to another landscape. One where there are no collapsing buildings. No smoke and fire. No cries of anguish and panic. A landscape where the grass is gentle and the water runs clear. A place where you can meet the person you lost. As if you had never lost that person in the first place.