It was very hard driving home yesterday, listening to the 9/11 tapes just released under the Freedom of Information Act.
When they came out, I went to The Times site and read some of the interviews with the heroes who were there and read some of the transcripts of their radio calls from that day. There are moments of bravery and generosity and fear there, moments of essential humanity. As inspiring as that is, it is also hard to read, hard to remember.
But the sounds were so much harder. NPR played moments from the tapes with firefighters calling dispatch, reporting the events. And so I heard the sounds of the day again. The day had a look: from its bright sunshine and white clouds to the frightening orange of the jet fuel exploding to the black of the cloud of destruction to the white of the dust of the aftermath. The day had a smell, too: flat, like an electrical spark. The day even had a taste, of the dust. And the day had a sound and these tapes dredged that sound up from a still-raw corner of my memory: The sound was sirens everywhere… and adrenalin (I did not recognize my own voice on the message I left my wife after the first plane hit; some of these emergency workers were also talking as if they had no time left to talk)… and an absence of all the normal sounds of the city… and even the sound of air thick with the dust. The tapes brought that back, they erased the time and distance and made the day real again and it was hard again.
: Most people here know that I started this blog because I was at the World Trade Center that day. But some don’t and because I haven’t written about September 11 in sometime, I’m mentioning it again, to give context to what might seem to some to be my emotional response. Here are my taped recollections of the day, recorded some weeks afterward.