Another skyscraper

For the past two weeks I've been looking for a way to write about the 9/11 attacks, without talking about me, or high school, or ever going, "well, Niko, that's ten years of cynicism, then!"

Well, really, I've been trying to write something that will make sense of it all. Maybe I should say I'm trying to sound like a smartass, sound like I absolutely get things, when all I've done is watch the news channels over the past decade and take in all I know. I haven't even read any of those conspiracy theories.

The closest I am to exerting effort for this blog entry is to try to reach Jeany. Yes, we're talking again, but she's still as hard to get a hold of. She was in New York ten years ago, and I thought I'd write a journalistic piece of sorts about being roughly eleven, maybe twelve, and looking out of your window and seeing the World Trade Center go down.

She did, however, talk to Youth Radio half a year back, around the time when Osama Bin Laden was killed.

Some of my friends had family who died in the World Trade Center. The trauma I experienced that day, and months after that, seems like nothing compared to what the families and friends of these victims went through.

Before 9/11, I lived a charmed life in Tribeca. My favorite thing to do with my dad was eating dinner at Windows on the World Restaurant as a kid. Aerial views of the city from the 100th or so floor made Manhattan look like a dollhouse with yellow Hot Wheels cars. God, I miss that view terribly.

After 9/11, We couldn't go back to our apartment for months. I was in constant anxiety that year wondering, "When will I go home? Do we have a home? Is my stuff okay? I hope my clothes aren’t chemically toxic." Downtown Manhattan was my home, and I so badly wanted to return. Eventually, we did move back into our old apartment in May of 2002 to find our possessions under a mountain of toxic dust. My mother arranged for our apartment to be fumigated, and when we moved back in, we had to get new towels, rugs, kitchen appliances.

Recently I've been (sort of) poking fun at Jean for being such a quintessential New Yorker, and one who lives in Manhattan at that. Sure, she already lives a less-than-usual existence, but when we talk it's like she's just some girl who's looking for her place in the world, apart from her apartment at Times Square. I'm flicking through back copies of New York, figuring out how one can keep track of all this - and I don't even get Manila - and she absolutely gets it.

After I returned to Tribeca, I eventually resumed my normal day-to-day life with my family and blocked out all those traumatic feelings I experienced that year. I try not to think about 9/11 - getting in depth with it floods everything back like a freight train that is ready to retard my mindset.

Ten years later, life did go on.

But of course she didn't forget it. She was there. I wasn't, but I didn't forget it, either. I think I know, pretty well, how much more suspicious we all have gotten since those terrorists hijacked those planes. Say, protesters at the US Embassy. Protesters at a gas station, ranting about oil cartels. Jeany telling me to visit New York, and me always telling her that it's hard, mostly because of the money, but significantly because the American government will probably never trust me ever again.

But at the same time we've moved on and gone about with our lives. We did not exactly live the rest of our lives in fear: all of the suspicion, all of the removed shoes, they just became a fact of life, and it never stopped us from being what the fundamentalists might call "infidels". We do things differently, but we never really crawled back in our shells. (Not that it stopped the fundamentalists from calling us "infidels".) It's like looking south and seeing nothing where a tall steel building used to be - and where a construction site now is.

Not that I know this from experience. When it happened, I was at home, halfway around the world, helping out with my sister's homework, when my brother came out of his room and told me, "kuya, may dalawang building, nasusunog."

They do say you'll never forget where you are when it all happened.

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