On one day, in 2001, I am down in Battery Park with thousands of other people, after the two plane strikes. It’s a ridiculously beautiful day. We all take moments between trying to get cell calls out to watch the towers as they catch fire, hearing the groans of the structures as the first finally falls, dust covers up the sky. Eventually, we hear the second collapse and the sky goes dark.
On another day in 2008, I’m on a small boat off of Provincetown, MA. We have seen whales surface, dive, a mother and her calf easily slide back under the water. The captain tells the crew and passengers to be very, very quiet, very still.
I look to the bow, the dark blur to coal black water glows green.. and I see the mollusk covered snout of a humpback whale. The entire giant creature, slides beneath the boat without effort. I have no idea how it perceives us, but to see one being, one entity so large yet so utterly graceful….
In both cases, which I only put together recently during a commute, I was suddenly face-to-face with things so far outside of my life. I’ve experienced both from afar.. the aftermath of terrorism at home, and when I lived in London. And whales.. I mean, there have been seals, dolphins and the blue whale model at the Museum of Natural History. But until you are there with the larger reality in front of you… you can’t comprehend.
In both cases, these things became real in one sharp moment.
I’m thinking about both, because after a long time, I’ve ended up scheduled to work on 9/11. Now, I’ve always said that I know as bad as my 9/11 was, so many people went through so much more. On that day, or the days affected by if. I also always took that day off.
Just in case. Just in case there was some last trauma, or trigger. Some last freak out. And I’m done with that. Just as there are sounds and horrors in the distance, there be whales.