September Blue

This was the color of the sky on September 11, 2001.  Everyone talks about the blue of the sky that day.  (I was looking through some pictures, and found this, from last September in Paris.)

The roll of film in my camera (imagine that!) that day was black and white, so I don't have any pictures of the sky, but this was the color.  Truly, it felt like a mockery, how visible the columns of smoke were from downtown.


I left the apartment on the morning of September 1, 2011 and headed to the subway.  It wasn't until I walked a few blocks that I glanced up at the sky.  It was exactly this blue.  Oh, perfect, I thought.  That's just great.  My throat got tight and my eyes teared up.  It's gonna be an interesting couple of weeks.  I said just that to my therapist, later in the day.

Honestly, I've always felt like a bit of a fraud, having feelings about it.  I was two miles north of the World Trade Center that day.  I didn't know anyone who died.  I didn't know anyone who was physically hurt.  I didn't have to evacuate my dorm, even.  I have friends who saw people jumping.  I have friends who ran from balls of pulverized concrete and asbestos, up Chambers Street.

My therapist (who was my group therapist 2004-2006) remembered that "it really affected" me.  I assume that's because my eating disorder really kicked into high gear afterward, after it had been lazing its way toward clinical significance during the summer of 2001.  But I told her again this past week how silly I felt, tearing up at Lexington Avenue almost ten years later, just because the sky was a certain color blue.  I obviously didn't tear up last year in Paris when I took the picture above, or if I did, it was because I was flying home that afternoon.

Wednesday night  I stayed up 'til 3:00 reading this week's New York Magazine - their 9/11 Encyclopedia.  There's an entry about the blue in there.

I don't know how to describe the feelings I have around September 11th.  It was terrifying.  It was desperate.  It was life-affirming.  September 12th was simultaneously one of the most numb and most purposeful days I've lived.  September 13th was a Rube Goldberg trap of bad decisions.  September 14th school officially went back to normal, but life didn't.  We didn't.  It was a new normal, I guess.

It's strange to feel that ten years minus ten days later, one is still in that new normal.


  1. I remember watching the CNN coverage of 9/11 non-stop from the minute I found out what happened in my 8:00 cellular biology class until my roomate finally shut it off against my will (the first fight we ever had in our dorm room). She couldn't figure out why I couldn't stop watching it, and I couldn't figure out why she wasn't more affected by it. I didn't know anyone in NYC at the time, and other than visiting it and the towers for the first time a year before, I didn't have a single personal connection to the city, and yet, I felt like I'd be punched in the chest all day and for many days thereafter. Even now, I cry every single time there's anything about 9/11 on TV or in a magazine or anywhere. It was a huge, terrifying, heart-wrenching thing that happened on that day- whether you actually knew someone killed or were just left drowning in sorrow for those who did- and I don't believe it's melodramatic to feel overwhelmed about it, then or now.

    On a slightly separate note, I can't believe it's been 10 years. Partly because I can't believe that I'm old enough now that 10 years ago I was still in college, but also because I don't feel like anything's changed, really. And that day was so big, it seemed like it would have to change something.

  2. You've hit it quite right. It was so big that it changed everything... except it didn't really change anything. We even got our eyelash curlers back on carry-on luggage, in the end. e_e

    There is something very numbing about the stasis you can see when you look at it from a remove.

  3. I watched people die, live on the internet at work, that day. I watched because I couldn't look away, because they were jumping and all I had to do was watch and it seemed wrong to abdicate that responsibility. Maybe it's wrong to feel that I had a responsibility.

    I got to work after the first plane hit and before the second hit. A coworker told me what had happened and I said, "That isn't funny," because before that day, the idea of that happening was absurd. Had I seen it in a movie, I would have dismissed it as being too ridiculous even for Hollywood.

    Now I live in a world where nothing is too evil, too absurd, too anything to happen, and the sky will never be the same again.

    I hate that shade of blue now.

  4. That's interesting - I don't hate that shade of blue now. I still love it, still one of my favorite shades (cerulean blue is The Favorite). There was just something that was too much about seeing it not so much before 8:00 a.m. on September 1st, ten years later.

    Interesting that you watched on the Internet. It's funny to think how in 2001 the Internet still wasn't a truly essential thing, particularly not for news. Our Internet (and phones and cell phones) went down that day and for a few days afterward, but our TV never went out, so that's how we got all our news. I remember watching the launch of the Iraq war on TV too, in 2003. The idea of turning on a TV to get news like that now feels alien. I forget if it was my NY Magazine or a post on The Society Pages that recently charted Internet vs. TV vs. print as main news source for Americans during various events. For the most recent (which might have been 2008 or so) the Internet percentage still wasn't as high as I thought it would be, but in 2001 and 2003 it was something quite paltry. There's at least ONE change, I suppose.


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