Death: September 11, 2001
Cause of Death: A Great Leap
THE FALLING MAN.
i overcame my fear of elevators because i had to.
A person can’t walk 90 stories every day.
A person can’t even LIVE 90 stories.
but you could get in the elevator and after only a few minutes–
a few stops–
a few people do the on and off dance…
You could get on that elevator and eventually,
eventually you’d step out and be halfway to the sky.
i don’t know what i expected to happen, where I’d go, what I’d see. Even though I’d done a lot of thinking about it, buried enough people to be curious, I didn’t know. maybe everything would just get real quiet. silent-like. a long afternoon nap.
they don’t teach you or prepare you for this sort of a thing.
my parents were always much more religious than i was. of course, i went to hebrew school when i was what twelve or thirteen but I spent more time sitting in shul trying to ignore the fact that Rebecca Stein’s tits were starting to come in
than I did focusing on rabbi gelman teach from The Big Book of Judaism.
If i’m being completely honest,
i couldn’t remember a thing on the day of my bar mitzah.
years later, i STILL can’t remember.
not one word. and when my mother died a few years ago–
i wanted to say something in hebrew at the funeral,
maybe a prayer…
The Kaddisch… so i sat on the plane for four hours trying to recite it over and over again, trying SO hard, but when i got there,
when i got to the cemetery i just went quiet.
silent like everybody else was because these people…
We cry, but only in solitary. We yell, but only in private. And when the rabbi didn’t say anything about the afterlife,
about what comes next,
when rabbi gelman didn’t say “may she find peace in heaven” i was furious and i had to remind myself that my mother wouldn’t have wanted any sentimentalities like that.
she would’ve preferred to just sleep. without any noise or pomp or circumstance.
Is she here too?
When i arrived, the sunlight was so bright i had to shield my eyes so i could look for her.
I shouldn’t have come so soon.
but this isn’t so bad.
It reminds me of…
when the elevator doors opened, you could see straight–
straight out the windows cause Mitch– Is he here too?–
The Big Man On Campus,
he loved being able to see the city and on a clear day you really could see forever.
We never closed the blinds,
always left them open.
Mitch would call it it “letting the sky in”.
And that morning–
Oh, that morning the sky was so blue!
Up there, the clouds are big.
So big it’s like they are hugging the building.
But that morning,
Not one hug.
Of course, no one thought to complain or protest to Mother Nature because you could see the bronx. Hell, you could probably see china if you squinted hard enough!
when the first plane hit,
the sky went from blue to grey in seconds.
you could feel it:
the force of it,
the building buckling,
all that grey sky hugging you,
all that ash and fire just hugging you so tight whether you wanted it to or not and Mitch–
Mitch trying so hard to stay calm.
Saying, you know, the standard
everyone to the stairs”…
And we were.
calm, i mean, calm as a person can be.
for a while.
a little while.
we were counting the stories as we walked down, some people singing, some people making calls…
someone told a joke. some of us laughed.
but at a certain point
the stairs, the steps below were on fire. or already ash. and Mitch, he started to cry right there.
i remember thinking i should hold his hand or give him my handkerchief but i couldn’t move.
i was stuck. frozen. dumb.
“does anyone have a phone?”
“i need a phone to call my daughters
a phone a phone a phone does anyone have a phone?”
someone did and he called and he said goodbye or maybe it was “I will see you later” and it was messy and ugly
but only for a moment
because pretty soon everyone decided to move
to try another staircastoo go up one floor and back across. Mitch kept screaming and crying. i don’t know if he moved because i lost him in the crowd. i don’t know if he ever got up and tried with us and that…
that “Not Knowing”?
That haunts me.
But the other staircase was already gone. And so there were only two things we could do. Two options. Wait, or…
If you looked our your window that day… if you somehow kept your eyes open through all the smoke… If you looked out your window, you might’ve seen some guy standing at a window on the 63rd floor, just looking out–
not down but out.
and then, you might have seen him jump. Maybe people screamed but I didnt hear because soon the ground reached up and hugged me.
It’s softer than you think.
For a brief moment this morning, I could fly.
Is my mother here?
I don’t want her to know I’ve come so soon.