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Jay!” Screamed a husky voice not far behind me. I ignored my cousin and kept walking. I stumbled, tripped and faltered on the bumpy asphalt, my shoes covered in a slight coating of dust. “Jay! Jay, wait!” The voice was closer now, but still I refused to stop or look back. I didn’t understand what she thought she had to say to me, any of them. I wasn’t going to listen; they may have surrendered to a harsh reality but I wasn’t going to submit to anything other than my own feelings of truth. I wasn’t going to accept an answer without an affirmation of rightness. A sudden harsh yank on my arm forced me to resist, I felt my muscles stiffen and automatically challenge whatever was trying to keep me from my goal. I fought the urge to turn and slap my cousin, and contented myself with shoving away her hand forcefully so that her grip on my arm gave way. “Go away Anne!”
I continued to tread down the side walk, my posture straight and hostile as I looked anywhere but behind me. I hadn’t taken more than a few steps when Anne was attempting to walk backwards in front of me, her palms stretched out to meet my shoulders. “Wait, wait, wait. Just stop for a second and listen to me Jaylyn!” I side stepped, trying to avoid my older cousins taller frame. “I said go away Anne!” “No, just—just stop! Okay, just stop,” I halted, but not to a complete stop. I shifted my weight and my feet wouldn’t stay still. I ground my teeth together and tried to control the trembling in my hands. Anne sighed and rubbed directly between her eyes before continuing in a less frustrated and more precise voice. “We’ve been looking for you for hours, Jay, hours. Do you understand how worried my father and your mother have been? You can’t just go wandering around New York for hours by yourself. Especially doing this, they’re concerned about you…Jay…he’s not coming back. Look at where we are! You can’t bring him back, accept it…” My eyes avoided Anne’s face and scanned the area.
My chest tightened and liquid formed in my eyes as I was confronted by the aftermath. Images and flash backs assorted my mind in a confusing continuous stream of memories. I saw with my mind’s eye the clean air go back to that gray; to a misty, murky, muggy fog that rose above the buildings and filled the atmosphere with an unnerving warning. The street that was now abounded transformed into a crowded road of people with looks of unmasked horror strung across their faces.
All I had to do was blink and my mind replayed for me the terror of a past reality that had become my worst nightmare during the hours spent in my bed. The people hadn’t known where to go or what to do. Many had ran past me, shoving me and knocking me with their briefcases and limbs. Some had walked backwards, pointing and screaming while staggering in the opposite direction. There were more than a few who had just stood frozen, motionless as they held their hands to their mouths. I didn’t know who to follow or where to go, what was I suppose to be doing? Ten billion thoughts jumbled together in my mind, colliding, all of them trying to win me over in doing what they wanted. I had tripped on my own feet and fell to one knee on the pavement that was collecting a layer of dust and grime. My eyes focused on the burning towers, black smoke the color of a cloudy starless night billowed out of orange flames. One thought burned into my mind and won over all others “Andrew,”
I had awkwardly risen to my feet and a strangled cry escaped my lips as I swayed unsteadily. I then took off in an attempt to run, but the mass flood of people trying to escape the unbelievable that was taking place behind them delayed me. I hadn’t known what to do, but I knew I was going towards those towers. Tears of fear and terror began to pour down my face as I shoved and yanked the people in my way. I couldn’t think of anything but those smothering towers, I paused in dismay and disbelief as I watched a shadow fall from a floor above the fire. A sob choked me and I began to stagger forward again. Suddenly my feet weren’t on the ground and I was thrown from the sidewalk to the road. Glass imbedded itself in my hand, and tiny drops of blood dotted the ash on the pavement. Red as dark as rubies began to fill the fabric of the jeans on both my knees. A man in a dark business suit halted, he offered me a hand. Before I had time to accept or decline a simple act of kindness in the mayhem, I had looked up in awe as paper began to fall from the sky. Paper and ash. Before I could register this, a noise so loud and unlike any noise I had ever heard reached my ears. Screams joined in the rumble of what sounded like thunder.
Bending, breaking, and broken steel made me want to rip my ears out. I screamed and my heart felt like it was being stab with shards of ice as I watched my last hope of ever seeing my brother alive again crumble to the ground.
The nightmare itself wasn’t just there on that road or in the thick fog that covered everything and everyone; the similarity of human remains in the coloring made me shudder and scratch at the layers on my skin. No, the nightmare was in what remained. Our daily lives were the nightmares, what had happened that day had knocked us all unconscious. Into a dream like state where we never felt more real and aware as we had in those horrific moments. This was the nightmare that we couldn't wake from. The trash and grime that still befell my city, the dirt under my nails, the closed shops and buildings, the haunting screams and the sight of grown men sobbing echoing through my mind. However, the worst yet was the empty place at the dinner table. The waking up from dreams where I’ve become my brother and I’m falling…falling…falling amidst twisted and misshapen pieces of metal. The gaping hole in my life where he used to be. Gone. The thought of his heart no longer beating, cold and still.
I am flashed back to the present, but the haze is still there. I want to run, run and run. Emotion turns and flows inside me, wanting to escape. The walls built up in the form of my flesh keep my soul from spilling out onto the pavement. I despretely want to run, but how can you run from yourself? How can you run away from memories and someone who isn't even here anymore?
Hot tears of anger and rage threaten to spill over my eyes, and my body is shaking, shown in the vibrating papers in my hand. One drop falls from my eyes and runs down the picture of my brother’s face, underneath the words “Missing: 9/11”.
That day was six weeks ago, and they had only identified 425 dead. I kept waiting for the call, but it never came. Much like the light of the sun that had spread through cinders in the air six weeks ago, hope had begun to spread through my body. As I looked into the eyes of my cousin, my insides began to boil and seethe. Just like the broken and deformed pieces of the world trade center, my heart cried out for revenge of the lost that had been dealt me. Until I received that revenge, until that justice was served, I would continue to look. My brother would come home. Though bits and pieces of me knew...he wasn't coming home. However,that's all I was. Bits and pieces. Part of me agreed with itself, the rest disguarded any attempts to become whole. I should never be whole again. A never ending scream echoed from within me, who I was was literally screaming. If I could pretend for just a little while longer, that there was hope. If there was just a little bit of hope, these pieces inside me weren't completely unidentified. I wasn't a stranger trapped in a body.
I yanked my hand out of Anne’s and spat a word into her face, “No.” I swiped at my eyes with the back of my arm and continued to walk towards the next lamp post that was covered in pictures that my brothers would soon join. I traced the scar on my hand with my fingers, the only physical evidence other then my dead eyes. When I felt the familiar twist, another crack appearing in my heart I again wished that I had fallen down with the twin towers. Then my bodily walls would fade away, and I'd just become part of the aftermath.