I just posted some pics of one of the light rail train platforms near where we live. I love this train. J. took it to work just this morning, and we rode it with our bikes this last weekend to get to the Basilica Block Party downtown.
I was sort of half-awake Thursday morning when I heard something about bombings on a train on J.'s clock radio. It didn't sound right, which may seem like an odd thing to say, but I'm so used to hearing of suicide bombers in Iraq, every day... that I have to tune it out. And this sounded different. So I tuned in. I put on my Walkman to listen to NPR while I took Cocoa for a walk before the heat of the day set in. By the time we got back to the house I felt sick. I wanted to turn on the TV to see what was going on but our TV was on the fritz. So instead I finally sat down and read the book I got for my birthday last year, Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers.
On September 11, 2001, I was home. I watched it on TV. I think I saw the first tower fall live on TV. But the truth is I can't remember anymore if it was live. I watched it so many times, and it was so chaotic, it's all a blur. I remember calling J. at work and wondering if (hoping) he was going to come home early (he worked downtown at the time). I went to work at Hamline, where I was a consultant in the Writing Center, and people had set up TV's in the library to watch the news. It was eerie. I know I had the sense of something horrible and momentous happening, and as the aftermath set in, I tried to collect writing about it, because I figured I would want it later, for something. I thought I might write about it, or teach a class about it or something. That's also when I started reading The Week Magazine, when I was looking for a good source for timely news of the world. I tried reading The New York Times, but I just couldn't slog through it on a regular basis. I went to local poetry readings and I read The New Yorker, especially the poetry, for months afterward.
I did try to put together a writing class to teach last year, on writing poetry about public events, especially tragedy, but it was just too much. The Loft rejected my proposal because they thought I was trying to cover way too much in one class, and they had other concerns about it. I was annoyed but a little relieved. I haven't been reading much poetry lately, and haven't written any for even longer. I know I'll come back to it, but not just yet.
Reading In the Shadow of No Towers was really refreshing. It wasn't pretentious. Instead Spiegelman focuses on the little details of his experience, and it feels authentic. I remember feeling really worried immediately after the attacks that our government would just strike out at the first convenient target and make everything worse. Unfortunately, much of my fears seem to have been realized. When I heard of the London bombings last week, I felt really sad for Londoners, but I did not feel an accompanying rush of fear that the Brits would lose control and go bomb something back just to show how tough they were. Thank God they have more dignity and brains. Maybe I'm romanticizing... but not much.
We went to see War of the Worlds not long ago and although it's got astounding special effects, it really wasn't that interesting. There's one moment that almost got interesting, where the main character is trying to stop his teenage son from following the tanks into battle against the alien invasion. The teenager argues with his dad and says, "You need to let me go. I need to see this." It was a fascinating comment. He seemed to be saying, this is my generation's history happening, and I don't want to run and hide from it, I want to see it and be involved, even if it means risking my life. Granted, some of that was hormones. But he had a point, too, I think.