Today’s Bleat graphic is mostly for my benefit, but you’re welcome to help yourself to the sentiments if you like. When I laid out this week’s bleats I wondered what would apt for the day after; I worried that 9/11 would be so oprahfied that we’d need a brisk rub with a cheese grater to brace us for the next phase. Nothing slaps you in the face like ol’ dependable WW2 Ford ads in Life magazine, so I chose this picture and added the sentiments of the invaluable Ben Grimm, a rocky orange Jewish fellow of notable pith and determination.

As it turns out, the mood of the day was not bathetic, at least not what I saw. Heads were bowed, but the eyes stared straight ahead. Sorrow and steel.

This morning
Gnat was playing in the family room, as usual; the TV was playing a memorial ceremony. I grabbed the camcorder and caught the scene, just to compare it to the exact same place and time last year. Same kid, same dog, same room, different TV stand, same poor ficus leaning towards the window for a drink. A bell rang: the second tower, down.

And then the power went out. The TV winked off, the air conditioning sighed and fell still; the appliances clicked and ticked in surprise. Well. Well, well. I grabbed the walkman, called up KSTP radio; it was on, but of course the backup generators could have kicked in. But the hosts were chatting normally. I called the office - the Strib had power, so it was just a local thing. They hadn’t bombed the nuke plant after all. Load off my mind. So Gnat and I went upstairs and read books until the power returned. Was I concerned for a minute or two? Sure. It was That Day, after all, and this isn’t Lagos; the power goes out only when there’s heavy demand, or a storm. It never, ever cuts out on a clear cool autumn morning. For a few minutes I had a flashback to the days following the first attack - the sensation of being twinned, of being the person who is shaving, talking to the daughter, choosing socks for the day, and the person inside the head who’s thinking what if? And if so what then? It’s not panic, or even fear - just a brisk interlude of calculation and extrapolation. This never happened before the attacks; now it’ll probably happen the rest of my life, once or twice a year in a myriad of circumstances. And each time it’ll seem as immediate as the first. And I wasn’t even there.

It requires you to ask the question, again: What must everyday life be like for those who were there, and lived?

My small fears are a great luxury. That which visits my gut is buried in their marrow.

Tonight my wife was watching a special on the babies born of women who lost their husbands in the attack. They showed acres of happy gurgling infants, interspersed with smiling pictures of their atomized fathers, caught in a wedding-day grin, or laughing on a beach. (It’s horrible how our happiest moments are always drafted to represent our worst.) My wife teared up, overwhelmed. Gnat grew concerned. Don’t cry mommy, she said. I get towel. And she toddled off to the drawer, got a dishtowel, and daubed her mother’s tears away. Don’t cry. Naddie hep.

Just thinking of this makes you realize that those women with babies might actually be the lucky ones; for them their husband still smiles up at them, submerged in the soft depths of a baby’s face. The line goes on in the eyes and the mouths. The flesh remembers until it is washed away by the waves of successive generations. Some men will hide in the coils of DNA, a few atoms that spell red hair, and they’ll flare up for centuries to come like a fire in a coal seam, stubborn and inextinguishable.

But some people ended there and then. The mourners will die; the pictures will end up in a box at an estate sale. They’re dead forever. The terrorists just didn’t kill 3,000 people. Draw the lines into the future, imagine the ways in which they’d split and branch, imagine a million hearts that will never flutter into life.

Goddamned sons of bitches.

Goddamned sons of bitches.

By “drop your hankies” I mean ball it in your fist and squeeze it dry.

But. This all makes it sound as if the day was a scowly procession of silly panic and glum contemplations; it was anything but. It was a beautiful day - and I won't say "it was just like the gorgeous day of 9/11" because that would link the glory of a simple early-autumn day to perfidy of those assassins. Facile as it sounds, if I think that lovely September mornings are Just Like That Day, then the terrorists have won. No. Note to Atta et al, no doubt dogpaddling in hell and bobbing in sulferous feces for nail-studded raisins: a lovely day in September reminds me that I'm alive, and you're not.

No, it was a good day. We had an Indian meal, assembled from the shelves of the pungent market down the street. We drew on the sidewalk with chalk, we went to the park to play. Jasper ran after rabbits while I weeded the lawn. I went to the office for a while, and when I went outside to think about the column I watched hundreds of citizens stream to the Metrodome to watch baseball and attend the memorial. No fear on anyone's face. And if you walked close enough to the Dome you could hear the crowd inside roar - not for blood, not for vengeance, not for death and fire, but for baseball. That was 9/11, 2002. I curse the terrorists for their horrible triumphs, but those bastards cannot even begin to count the ways in which they failed.

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