Tears rose up inside me like a panic. Multiplying and overtaking. My chest constricted, as if something got a hold of me and squeezed, hard, nails digging into ribs. I could no longer run, within seconds I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t see and I couldn’t breathe. My heart hurt in every way it could. Sobbing uncontrollably, I folded over in the middle of the sidewalk and leaned on my knees, trying to catch a breath. Tears came pouring out across my downturned face in streams, as if I was made of them, as if they were all there was. And for a moment I let myself drown in my unhappiness. There was nothing left, there was only the pain of losing someone who is as much a part of you, as your limbs, your organs, your skin. Who is in every memory, in every reality, and in none of the future. That was just the first wave of misery that would overtake me in the years to follow. It was neither the heaviest nor the most lasting. That’s the thing about Grief, it is a monster who comes for tea and stays for the cake, then it drops by, whenever, for a pound of flesh. You can run from it, hide from it, but it’s got a lojack on you, it always knows where you are, it watches you while you sleep, it is the price you pay for love.
A few minutes passed with me bent over in the street like a folded chair, then, finally, the thing wrapped tightly around my throat eased its grip, and I could breathe again. Having recovered enough to straighten up, I dragged a sleeve across my wet face. There were plenty of people on the street, walking along like nothing was happening to me. A little girl ran past me waving her arms, her concerned mother trotted twenty feet behind her screaming out cautionary words. When the little girl ran into a band of pigeons they obligingly flew up, then settled down again only a few feet away. Life went on, I thought. Although my world was mangled. Although I felt like there would never be another day without crying or bleeding or searching for air. My world was just one little world amongst billions of worlds, consisting of little girls, concerned mothers, loitering pigeons, and all manner of things, each with its own joys and woes. I straightened myself out and started walking, along with all the other people on the street, trying to weave myself into the fabric of their communal humanity. If I could be absorbed by it along with my pain, then maybe I wouldn’t have to carry it all on my own.
I did not loose anyone on 9/11, but I have lost someone, grief is as different for everyone as it is the same for all. I hope everyone suffering remembers that they are not alone.