I remember the sky, six years ago today, was an almost otherworldly shade of blue. I remember stepping off the unfamiliar crosstown bus, not wanting to be late for my software training, but stopping anyway, and removing my sunglasses for a moment to look up. The sky was perfection, not a trace of cloud, and an amazing crystalline clarity that is highly uncommon in the summer months.
I remember scurrying into the lobby of the ABC News building, eager to get the class over with, so that I could escape early, and luxuriate in a few precious hours of daylight before returning to the regular workday drudge that the rest of the week would bring.
I remember looking up at the jumbo television screens in the lobby, and seeing a tower in flames, and asking myself "What movie is this? and why is ABC broadcasting it at this hour? shouldn't the news be on now?" I remember the fog of surreality descending upon me when I was informed that "This IS the news!", that somebody had crashed a small airplane (that was the story at the time) into the World Trade Center. I remember thinking that it was an awfully huge fire for a small airplane, and hoping that the casualties were few.
I remember sitting in class, entirely distracted by people running back and forth in the corridors, but trying very hard to concentrate on what the instructor was saying. I remember a hurried knock, and the door flying open, and someone breathlessly announcing that another plane had crashed into the second tower, that this wasn't an accident, that we were under attack.
I remember frantically calling my boyfriend, whose daily commute took him directly under the World Trade Center, and gratefully finding him running late for work, but staring in horror at his TV screen.
I remember crowded buses, panicked phonecalls, stunned, silent crowds moving, ghost-like over bridges and down hollow avenues. I remember sheets of paper, charred around the edges, descending into the streets of my Brooklyn neighbourhood, a testament to the labours of the minds that were suddenly torn from this world. I remember the smell, like the angry, persistent fume of a pot that's been left on the stove to boil dry. The heated, metallic stench that hung in the air for weeks.
I remember the plume of debris that violated that perfect, infinite veil of blue. The irreparable gouge in the firmament, belching forth ashes, tears, horror, agony and death. Visible from space, and hanging, like the end of life itself, over every breath, over every thought, over every hope and prayer, and lingering like a the imprint of a flashbulb flare in my vision, in every cloudless blue sky I have seen since that moment.
I remember the sky.
Dedicated to the memory of firefighter George Cain, Ladder 7, Manhattan