Today was The Day. If you're a New Yorker, you know exactly what I mean. Every year there is a day, sometime between September 5 and September 10, that has the exact same weather we had on September 11, 2001. Warm, not too humid, beautiful blue cloudless sky, people getting fall things started--school, new jobs, new projects at work.
For the rest of the year we don't think about it, even if we mention it. "I haven't [fill in the blank] since before nine eleven," we say. Just last week as I was boarding the plane in my parents' small city, I made some matter-of-fact remark about "since nine eleven" to someone. (Usually I don't call it that. I don't think there's anything special about those numbers, except the power they have to save lives if you dial them on the phone. And calling the event by the date seems to dishonor what actually happened, at least to me. I usually call that day the Trade Center Attacks, although I realize that leaves the other two planes out of it.) Even at my church, which still has heightened security from the recent terrorist alert, we are mostly "over it," praying for all the lost bodies and all the lost souls that day, but not really thinking about it.
On The Day, however, the physical conditions of the weather summon up the physical pain that has been stored quietly in our bodies. There is no way to escape it, because the grief of that day is still lodged in our physical selves. The wave of fear or sadness washes over us, stuck in the back of our throats where the smoke was for two months. As you fight back the tears, you briefly meet the eyes of someone who has just stepped out of the subway, and know that they feel it, too. You can't help it, because it's still there in the atoms that make up our skin and lungs and bones and muscles.
This year, I only saw one person openly crying on the street. Last year I saw three or four. Maybe this means that even the grief that made its home in our bones is healing. Or maybe we're just doing a better job of covering it up. When those people died I was just entering my second trimester of pregnancy. I cried for weeks and weeks. Today I didn't let myself cry so I wouldn't worry the child I was carrying then. We're scarring over.