I was at the gym: the West End Y in Toronto at College and Dovercourt. I had just finished a workout — I’m guessing on the Stairmaster; you had a half-hour limit, but weekday mornings you could usually sneak in a bit more time — and I walked into the locker room and on the television was footage on repeat of a plane crash, the newscaster talking about New York and the World Trade Center.
I didn’t get it then. It’s weird to understand, in hindsight, just how much you didn’t understand. I showered, dressed, stood once more in front of the television and tried to piece together what happened. Somewhere in there, sometime in between my shower and my bike ride home to the second-floor apartment that backed on to Trinity-Bellwoods Park, I think that the second plane crashed.
I look at my journals from the time, twelve years ago. So much is different: Toronto, no kids. I still had my mother, scheduled for surgery to remove another yet lump in her breast. On September 12, 2001, I wrote that I would go donate blood to help out. Do you remember that? The idea that you should give blood, and then the realization that there wasn’t anyone — there weren’t any survivors — to donate it to? And so much is the same: I write in the same type of notebook, with the same brand of pen. Then, I had 50 pages of a novel manuscript and I was still trying to figure out what the characters were doing. I was sore from a workout. I was trying to set up interviewees for a magazine article, pitching an essay to an anthology — later, that essay would be rejected but I would repurpose parts of it for my mother’s eulogy. I worried about the racism, the suffering. I felt guilty, trite, about writing about the minutiae of my daily life in the face of the scale of the tragedy. But I wrote about it anyway, because what else would I have done?
On September 13, I wrote: “Saw Christine on my walk yesterday (funny, because I thought I might), and she invited us to her 40th birthday party on Saturday night.”
And today, I try to remember just who Christine is.