Oddly, one of my main memories of 9/11 is blue sky. I was standing on Lafayette St. looking uptown with a new friend, another yoga student, sometime in the afternoon, debating whether to get in a long line for a pay phone that stretched across the street. Our cell phones weren't working (I had a small flip phone at the time that didn't take pictures), and anyone who wanted to get through to a loved one to tell them they were alive needed to get in line.
The sky was blue and empty save for a giant plume of smoke bleeding out of the site of the World Trade Center. A few hours earlier we'd stood in a park and watched the second tower fall. We were filled with adrenaline, but we didn't really know where to run. Instead, we wandered around the city for hours, telling our life stories, eventually ending up at the lower downtown apartment where I was staying with another friend. There, several of us cooked, ate, and watched the news together n shock.
The sound of distant sirens was a constant. I remember first catching the scent of the toxic dusty metallic smell that would become omnipresent that night, talking on the phone with my brother in California, looking out the window into the dark, wondering what our dad, who had died six weeks earlier, would have thought of what was happening. A little less than a week later, I flew home on a near empty plane. I caught a glimpse of the still-smoking ruins from above as the plane rose and headed west.
Some of the main lessons I've learned from the disasters I've experienced in the past— the '89 earthquake, 9/11 among them — are don't wait, love who you love and do whatever it is you're called to do. But first you have to duck, cover, and survive.
After I opened the door to retrieve the CSA box this morning, the air filter started running double time. As I unpacked the plums and pears, kale and tomatoes, I wondered how these crops would keep growing. The Airnow site tells me a 'smoke plume has been detected in your area.' Looking at the satellite maps of the Western US reminds me of what I saw from the plane leaving New York 19 years ago. Only this time, I'm home, and I'm looking at a huge swath of the country.
Many of the places I've spent a lot of time, or thought of moving to if I move again, are similarly obscured or worse. I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that 500,000 people in Oregon alone have evacuated, to where I don’t know.
I'm pretty sure I’m in duck and cover mode. I'm just not sure how or what is next.