Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Calling nine eleven

The phone is ringing...ringing...ringing...

I have questions and it just keeps ringing...ringing...ringing...

Under the edge of the bed, hidden behind the ruffle, is a shoe box, its original contents long used, well beyond comfort to holes in the toes. It is now where love letters live, of days gone. They come again, when I need them, though many I have memorized, down to the creases in the paper. they are veins along which the words padump padump padump into my fingertips. Thin as vellum.

At the market, Saturday in the sun, box trucks backed to the curb. Tables of vegetables formed a rainbow down each side of the river of people. People: old, young, sharp, wrinkled, pressed, bright, not. They eddy here and there and talk, barter, banter. Just be. At the end, steps rise to a seating area by a fountain and a girl, maybe sixteen, or twenty, dances in the mouth of a hula hoop. Round and round, she dances within and it spins and her smile is a sun and many take notice, while some just get what they need and leave. She is writing her own love letter.

I was in the air on nine eleven, on the way to work in Florida, put down in Atlanta. Tens of thousands of us packed in the terminal waiting for word on if the world was coming to an end. They cut the TVs after the fall and cell phones were nearly useless. We stacked luggage in large monuments of lost things and sat in huddled circles, complete strangers writing love letters on each other.

Some days I need to remember so I slip the box from beneath the bed and spread the letters across the comforter and lay in them. The smell of their messages rise as arms around me in felt meaning. Here is reality.

The phone is still ringing...ringing...ringing...

I hang up. These questions have no easy answers, and will remain, but I got what I need...

and letters to write before the day is done.

written for Imperfect Prose.

106 comments:

Whosyergurl said...

Brian, this is beautiful. I love the how you write about the young girl dancing in the mouth of the hula-hoop.
On a flight that was recently delayed for five hours, after making friends with those that sat with me in a bar, our tongues loosened by alcohol, the subject of the friendships that must have been formed by those downed planes of 911 came up. I can't imagine. It was terrifying enough to be where I was supposed to be- no displaced in some airport.
Cheryl

Pat Hatt said...

Still in high school then and had no idea until I got home
Being on a flight anywhere must have really tough to roam
The talks that came about
Must have been quite the interesting shout
On and nine eleven
Not on eleven but on seven
haha you rhymed without knowing
Ok now I'm going

She Writes said...

You got me with complete strangers writing love letters on each other... There is something so vulnerable in those words about life and people and need and comfort.

rosaria said...

Somehow, in these images, you stopped the world and helped us focus of what's in front of us, the love letters we Still have under our bed, in plain view, reminding us...
Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ells said...

Thanks for stopping by...wow to have been in the air...a life changing moment. This inspires me to write daily love letters...to each person my life touches...Oh for such a Grace.
Blessings~

emmett wheatfall said...

Honestly Brian, this is an absolutely beautiful write about another day in infamy. I was moved by your narrative, contextualized in actual history, not something in a textbook. A fitting memorial in writing to the rapidly advancing 9/11 memorium.

kaykuala said...

Amazing Brian, a picture perfect appraisal of the surroundings.Come a moment of crisis, many will rise to the occasion comforting each other. We could only hope for the best!

Sue said...

Beautifully said, Brian. Thanks.

=)

Daniel said...

Love this piece my friend from top to bottom. You are an artist.

Mighty M said...

Such a beautiful poem. I got goosebumps reading it. Nobody alive and old enough to be aware of what was going on will ever forget that day.

CM said...

And it keeps ringing...

"Writing love letter on each other" I can just picture strangers sitting in circles, writing letters on each other's backs to their spouses, parents, kids, ect. So sad, so surreal. Little did we know that day...

Heaven said...

Like the phone ringing tale with vivid memories of that fateful day. Love the vivid images of the letters and that scene in the market with girl hula hoop dancing and smiling like the sun.

The warmth of the letters are felt here: "they are veins along which the words padump padump padump into my fingertips. Thin as vellum."

hedgewitch said...

A piece full of human wisdom, as always from your pen, and I can't get the image of laying *in* the love letters, spread out on the bed--just the physical version of what we do mentally, but very rich. Loved it brian, and an unusual way to tie in to the whole 9/11 thing without going to cliche.

Brian Miller said...

it was an incredibly surreal day...each year i write about it as it is one of those definitive points in my life...after 6.5 hours i got a call taht i had a car...and as i was leaving my luggage popped out of the conveyor...there were tanks in the street of columbus which was the closest place i could get a hotel...being out of communication during it was the most unsettling and as people got info it would spread like the telephone game from school...

Ed Pilolla said...

this is so powerful. i just sat here for an extended moment after reading it, allow it all to metabolize, the concept of love letters, a mountain of luggage in atlanta, the anniversary looming. a rich, reflective piece blending the horror of that day (by mere mention of the date; nothing else is needed) with the internal love and grounding represented in the shoebox of letters. or something:) thanks for throwing your arm over my shoulders this morning:)

Heather said...

i have chills...it was a day i will NEVER forget... This was beautifully written....I save my love letters, too -

Fred said...

Brian, really wonderful write. 9/11 will forever go down as one of those infamous days where everyone will remember where and what they were doing. Your situation is surreal in itself, to be in an airport, flying before, all sorts of thoughts indeed would swell up and possibly even create suspicion and more. Yeah, It must have been intense to say the least a bit scary. I was working in a warehouse without reception or radio. It was a busy warehouse, where never a breath to wipe off the sweat was possible. But that day it just stopped, I remember discussing how odd it was to be so silent. The workers all agreed. That's when someone came in and reported the news. i closed down the shop for the day so everyone could tend to matters for themselves. Fortunately all my relatives and friends in the area where safe. One actually worked in the towers but lost his job a couple weeks before. Always count on you to pen something to stir the old memories. Thanks

Eva Gallant said...

I can't imagine what it would have been like to have been flying that day. Crises tend to bring people together, don't they.

sheila said...

Wow, that was WONDERFULLY written! It envelopes the reader for sure!

william said...

a very tragic day for the whole world Brian mate you painted a great picture :)

Pheromone Girl said...

My daughter asked, last night, why it takes a great disaster to bring people together, why we can't be that way all the time.

Maybe I should spend my afternoon at the airport, trying to get strangers to let me write love letters on their back?

LadyCat said...

A frightening time described in such a compelling way.
"dances in the mouth of a hula hoop" is the best visual I have seen in a long time.

Nessa said...

Always such beautiful, vivid images full of all of the senses.

Another poignant reminder that has me crying, remembering the silence in the air, the stillness, the lost voices.

Pauline said...

perhaps of we all wrote love letters every day...

haikulovesongs said...

every day ~ EVERY day ~ the most important thing anyone can do is tell the people they love "i love you" even though they already know.

utterly beautiful, Brian. breathtaking ♥

C.M. Jackson said...

time stood still that morning and day--you capture the moments and the emotion beautifully

Jen said...

What a way to remember that fateful day. Somethings, I am learning, we never fully understand, but we learn. Somehow we learn to love deeper and better.

Ruthiey said...

that reminds me... I need to write some love letters. :)

Jannie Funster said...

Wow, Brian... writing love letters to each other in the airport.

Why did they cut the tvs?

And did you hire a car to get home?

xo

Barbara Shallue said...

Truly beautiful. Love letters. Yes.

missing moments said...

Crushingly beautiful prose ...

Monkey Man said...

spell binding memorial.

Brandee Shafer said...

This is lovely. I can't imagine waiting for news in an airport during that time. And I never have been able to hula hoop, but that was my favorite line. Blessings to you.

libithina said...

your own situation Brian at that tragic time was quite unreal ~ reading it ~ thinking ~ My God ~ I nrecall sitting with my daughter at home watching a programme that had been interrupted to show the horrific and unforgettable footage ~ thinking ~ is that for real? ~ No!! ~ but it was ~ like the day Kennedy was shot ~ and here (UK) the children of Abervan buried under mountain of sild ... some things will always be indelibly printed .. ty for sharing ~ Brilliant Brian ~ Lib

Jan Timmons said...

I read this twice. I looked for a way to sign up for future posts by email. Please! Ti of Titanium and Elements 22 has one using blogger. Please consider. My google list became too large and my bookmarks need weeding.

But I want to find someone who touches my heart with words—again.

Cheryl said...

Your story sends chills up my spine. I can't begin to imagine what that day was like for everyone in the air or waiting for planes to land.

blueviolet said...

I'll bet there's a rare person who doesn't remember exactly where they were in those moments.

An Open Heart said...

Brilliant, as usual, my friend. Missed your prose.

S

Stacy Uncorked said...

Poignantly beautiful Brian. That would have been so surreal flying that day.

KB and Whitesnake said...

This is a wonderful piece, Brian.

KB

Kateri said...

Beautiful and haunting. Love your writing. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for sharing your experience on that day Brian. It was certainly one that every one that I know can recall.

lori said...

Ugh, it was such a surreal day. I was at work and my Jonah was a toddler. I kept thinking, 'What is the world going to be like for him?'

You really captured the unease and emotion of the day and the days following. My favorite parts were,

"The smell of their messages rise as arms around me in felt meaning. Here is reality." and "These questions have no easy answers, and will remain, but I got what I need..."

Lots of emotion beautifully expressed on a day that none of us will ever forget.

:)

Tara Miller said...

That day has forever changed us all. Your words that speak of people writing love letters on each other is beautiful and so poignant. It makes me speechless to remember and see during times now how we as people come together so closely to help one another out and just be there during tragic times. This day will never be forgotten and I'll never forget the relief after hearing that you had touched down safely in GA.

Christine said...

I was getting my kids ready for school, we all prayed before they left and then went onto the school bus, I suppose if I was living in the US I would have kept them home that day (they were only in Grades 1&2, they really didn't know what was happening), truly a very sad day for everyone...

Anna @ waysidewordgarden said...

This is a lovely piece of prose, a reminder of a horrific day.
Sadly it takes a tragedy to get strangers (and us, me included) to open up and share things, esp in an airport, where we just walk on by so quickly, not seeing the real faces of who we pass.

owlmeetsfairy said...

Wow this is so vivid. It chills me, it must have been terrifying. Love letters to one another are exactly what we need. letters, carry such substance, and they are tangible. You can see smell and touch a letter. Your post still echoes in my mind.

David Allen Waters said...

this brings up such strong emotion...you convey like no other dear friend :)

elizabeth said...

We were in the air that day too, returning from a trip to the New England states. We had to land at O'Hare in Chicago. The weird feeling of all the monitors going black and then hearing snippets of what was happening...we will never forget that day, those emotions.

Madeleine Begun Kane said...

Beautifully written!

SueAnn said...

As I watched in horror the events of 9/11...all I could say was, "Oh my God!!!" "They are going to crumble and fall" And they did! And they did! And they did! I can see them still...falling..falling! Dust covering like a thick blanket..everything covered.
People jumping...so brave..so hopeless!
Still remember it all!
Hugs
SueAnn

Friko said...

Brian, this really is one of your best pieces that I have read. It touched me immediately, no two ways about it.

Valerie said...

I too sat and thought about 9/11. It was my son's birthday, we were decorating our lounge. Covered furnishings, rolled up carpet, old sheets on the floor. I cursed the chaos not knowing that the world was about to be turned upside down. Then I cried.

ravenblack said...

Beautiful, thanks for sharing.

That day, I recall immediately logging on to a forum community I was a part of and checking to see if friends in NYC were alright. All of us were on, no matter where we were in the world.

Just Be Real said...

Lovely written Brian. Truly a God given gift for you to express such beauty in words. Thank you for sharing. Blessings.

♥ Braja said...

It's true; things like this make us consider, appreciate....write our love letters. But you know what I'd like to read? How that all turned out....

It's so easy to feel in the moment; emotions are one thing, reality is another. How did it look in real life?

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

Will I ever write a love letter again? I wonder...

That you could read the love letter of the girl dancing in the hula hoop is, I think, rare. I doubt many, if any, could.
Mona

Lorraine said...

and this right here is why I always come back...

Lisa notes... said...

So maybe my mission today is to write letters? You inspire...

ayala said...

Brian..this took my breath away..we will never be the same..and we will never forget the moments of that day. Thank you for sharing.

annell said...

I love this post.

the walking man said...

It is a wonderful bit of thinking here Brian.

I for one feel we have now had our vengeance and cans top all the god damn warring we are involved in because of that terrible day, to me that would be the best love letter of all.

emily wierenga said...

oh, how we need those love letters to sustain us and remind us of why the girl twirls in a houla houp... a powerful write, brian. you speak heart into the world.

ladyfi said...

What a moving love letter - so comforting to think of love at the time of an incident that seemed to scream hate...

Suz said...

I read this and bowed

Madhulika said...

I love the way you write about your children...
Its so beautiful.. Apart for being a good writer I can easily sense that you are a great dad too :) :)

Leovi said...

Excellent poetic prose.

nance marie said...

september golden
leaves each a letter
of love falling
from the sky
gliding
landing
unsigned

adeeyoyo said...

Isn't it wonderful to have memories to draw strength from in times of stress. Great post, Brian!

Rebecca S. said...

I love your descriptions of the market and the people, and the girl. This got me thinking of where I was that day... living in the woods, very pregnant and without a television. "I need visuals!" I went in search of a newspaper.

nsiyer said...

Awesome! Creases on paper compared to veins - what an analogy. Brian you are just too much.

Magpie said...

Brian, this is a lovely bit of prose. You express so many of my own emotions beautifully.
This is such a wonderful line,
"and a girl, maybe sixteen, or twenty, dances in the mouth of a hula hoop." What a sweet picture that paints in my mind.
9/11 is our anniversary...it will be 18 this year. I can still remember going out that night and the streets being all but empty. It was eerie.

Sheila Moore said...

I don't even know what to say...as I sit here with tears filling my eyes. I, I,...God, is beyond comprehension...I don't even know what to say...except that it is damn cool to be a part of it all.

Vicki Lane said...

Some people's lives are love letters to the world...

Lolamouse said...

Brian,
Truly heartwrenching and beautiful. I loved the image of the girl dancing in the mouth of the hula hoop and the strangers writing on eachother's backs. We need those connections. Very poignant write.

G-Man said...

Yeah...
The December 7th of OUR time!

Goofball said...

how long did it take you before you could go home in that period?


enjoy your shoe box

Claudia said...

i was walking the streets in our small town when i heard about it and everything looked so peaceful..yet the world has changed..the image that touched me most is the laying in the letters, written by strangers the moment their world broke apart..think we should write more love letters to the people around us - just so..

Jodi said...

I really appreciate your imagery. I had just gotten home from a short term mission trip about a week before 9/11. A whole week and so it bowled me over. The e-mails I received from people I had only briefly met on the other side of the world, inquiring if I was okay, and sharing their heartbreak for our country.

PattiKen said...

Powerful write, Brian. That day changed all our assumptions. It will be one of those "where were you when..." days for probably the next 60 or 70 years until no one is left who experienced the shock of horror and vulnerability of that day.

Brian Miller said...

goofball...actually it was a week before i got home...as you may remember they closed the airports and we ended up driving home...i met up with some colleagues in different cities so we could turn cars in for others to use and then headed home...

Pat said...

"Young girl dances in the mouth of a hula-hoop" The.best.line.EVER! I will remember that image and line ALWAYS. Well, as long as MY brain allows! I really enjoyed this one!

Bethany Ann said...

we've all been marching about, following the rules we taught ourselves on how not to love. a real disaster can break it all down.

johnallenrichter said...

I love this...... I'm 52. From 17 to 19 I had the most beautiful love affair you could imagine. My darling Anna and I corresponded weekly at least, me alone in Germany, far from home on an Army adventure. Her wondering why I left, waiting for me to join her. She scented her letters with perfume, and let me know she loved me so. I loved her so deeply. My male diversions destroyed us though. I never saw her again but I kept those letters, odd I thought for a guy but they were so intensely important to me. A couple of years after that a heartless, jealous live-in girlfriend burned them, bold faced-ly saying she just didn't want them around. I was just devastated. There were 50 or 60 of them, all beautiful. And a few letters from my German girlfriends were in there too, the ones that caused me to lose Anna. Your story just absolutely ripped through my heart.... thank you for bringing those memories to me..... I liked your pantoum too, but this story about the shoe box under the bed is so much cooler! I'm not a form guy either.... great read.....

Carrie Burtt said...

Brian this is a powerful and a beautiful piece of prose....oh how you can stir up what matters in our hearts with your words....you have an amazing talent!!

Karen said...

Wow. So incredibly powerful.

Everyone has a story from that day. Yours has now become a part of my knowledge. Thank you for this.

Beachanny said...

I'm not sure I can read all of these. We were leaving for New York driving as much of the Eastern Seaboard as possible, the car was rented, the trip was paid for, we had tickets to Broadway shows, on up the coast to Maine, Nova Scotia, then Quebec City back through the color of Vermont and NH, to leave the car and fly back out of Logan, Boston to Dallas. We went against fear & advice of family. I was fearless. I would go. No one would stop me. I knew in that decision what I was made of. What a journey! What stories! It would make a novel, the emotions are strong; the colors are vivid. It's part of my saga. G.

Mark Kerstetter said...

You know, the date is so uncanny: 9/11 - 911. It's really impossible not to think about that phone ringing and ringing, the help that is always needed, that is always, we hope, on the way. Did you really write letters in the airport, or is this a metaphor for your thoughts/feelings?

California Ink in Motion said...

Brian, this has to be one of the best/powerful prose I have read. I could feel it from your heart. I woke early that morning to see the first tower afire, we all thought it might of been an accident, then the next plane came in. The local air force base went on high alert. The skys were dead of all flights. I kept my kid and his friend home from school. I pray we (USA) gets though this 10 year remembrance safely. Yours is one of many incredible stories about that day. Well done. I am older and ponder how this affected the younger generation who grew up with Bush. I had Nixon and Vietnam.

Daydreamertoo said...

Bought tears to my eyes. Such a deep and, heartfelt write Brian.

oceangirl said...

Brian, I read Tara's comment and that brought tears, the relief she must have felt to know you were safe. This prose reminds me of the connection you mentioned the other day in your comment. We need to remain connected, even with strangers.

Ginny Brannan said...

So many stories from that day, a day so surreal and one that we can never forget. I was at work and someone had the radio on in the back room. The word of planes hitting the WTC started filtering through the building. We listened in disbelief, how could this be real. Even after getting home and seeing it played and replayed on TV we kept thinking "How could this be happening."
Thank you for telling your story, your 'freeze frame' of that moment in time. So glad you are here to share it.

Beth said...

There are no answers. I remember the strangers who became temporary family, the need and inability to contact family and the overwhelming sense of uselessness in a world destroyed. As I think back, I also recall the hand on my shoulder that reassured and the husband holding his sobbing wife. These are all love letters.

Crafted with excellence and a human heart.

Beth

Ann Grenier said...

Thank you Brian. This is a beautiful piece. Poignant. You emphasize how close people become, how different, when tragedy strikes.

And thank you for always visiting just about everyone who links to D'verse. So kind of you.

lime said...

this reminds me that even those not near ground zero or shanksville or the pentagon had memory searing personal experiences. so many strangers stranded together on that day. and so the ripples spread out...

Patricia said...

when it all comes down to it...
what matters the most...
love letters...
our thoughts, our hearts, our gut...
written form...
yes, to laying in the reality of it.

marousia said...

Powerful poignant write

Natasha said...

Brain, after a day of computer woes, and real world interruptions, I figured I'd be able to write to this with no trouble...I can't do it! Unlike this piece, simple, yet ensnaring, brilliantly penned with honest ink...I remember it all like yesterday...and between you, me, and comment readers...I'm still scared to death...

beckykilsby said...

Brian... you have frozen the global holding of breath...as though rules and all laws of science were broken. You've brought it back as a heartbeat. Wonderful writing.

Leslie said...

i love your prose, brian. and this brought tears to my eyes:

"We stacked luggage in large monuments of lost things and sat in huddled circles, complete strangers writing love letters on each other."

somehow this expressed, so well, how so many of us felt that day. thank you for sharing...

Ann LeFlore said...

Brian this is so touching and so filled with your heart. I have no idea how it would of been to be flying on such a day as this. I was home safe on the islands when I received a phone call telling me to turn on the TV. I stood in horror and watched this over and over again and could not believe what I saw in front of my eyes. I live in Tahiti and we are so far from the rest of the world but this too affected us all on this day.
http://gatelesspassage.com/2011/09/11/the-sorrow-of-our-times/

The Empress said...

I have often thought of how "real" that day made people.

How stripped of everything else they were:

even their faces changed.

I miss that.

It , that, was another story unto itself.

Everyone was who they really were that day.

Zeba said...

I was 10 years old. At home that day. Watching the news. I was only allowed to watch CNN or BBC if I wanted to watch T.V. I was sitting there listlessly, bored, pissed off with my mom when the news flashed. Live footage of the plane crashing into the building. On a continuous loop. It was heartbreaking at so many levels. A 10 year old should never have seen such horrors. Sigh. And I almost died of dismay when the building unexpectedly collapsed. Your words are so beautiful. They bring alive so many hidden memories and thoughts.

mrs mediocrity said...

your imagery is so rich and powerful. that day changed the lives of everyone it touched, some more so than others, but for all of us, we come together that day, a nation, we saw our humanity staring back at us in the mirror.
great job with this.

Kodjo Deynoo. said...

Another beauty, if there were words to express in vivid emotion how one feels, or felt on the day, you found it and hid it in your shoe box for safe keeping, on days like this, the take their rightful place to me our centre piece, to remind us of humanity, help and cruelty. they come out to be our mirror

Syd said...

No answers sadly. Just more questions. All of it just so unreal.