SuzAnne C. Cole
Although now living in the Texas Hill Country, SuzAnne C. Cole grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, graduating from Tulsa University with a BA in English. A Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Stanford University, she earned her MA there. After teaching at Houston Community College for twenty years, she’s now a retired wife, mother, and grandmother. Her poetry and fiction have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, her plays have been published and produced, and her essays have been published in Newsweek, the Houston Chronicle, the San Antonio Express-News, the Baltimore Sun, Personal Journaling, and Front Porch Review, as well as many anthologies.
Ground Zero, Then and Now
The wonder is that the National 9/11 Memorial was finished by its tenth anniversary. And that it was built at all. Some families would have preferred a cemetery, for many victims simply disintegrated into the waiting earth, pulverized by the collapse of the towers, falling, still strapped into their seats, with the planes, or jumping or being blown from the towers.
Now, I watch the televised memorial.. That first September 11, I could not pull myself away from the coverage. Remembering piles of photographs stuffed into bags, I sorted them chronologically, and, all that too-long day between phone calls with far-flung family members and friends, I arranged memories—holidays and hiking trips and fern-banked waterfalls cascading over rocks softening the onscreen horror. Today the largest man-made waterfalls in North America cascade down into two reflecting pools, an acre each in size, footprints of the doomed towers.
Then I watched and waited through further horrors—a plane at almost ground level barreling into the Pentagon, a missing plane found crashed into the fields of Pennsylvania carrying the daughter of friends. One of our sons was stuck attending a meeting in the Sears tower in Chicago, oblivious to possible danger; I called to demand he get down to the ground floor immediately. Another son awaited the overdue birth of his first child, our first grandchild. As much as we all longed for this birth, I found myself whispering a prayer that it not be today. Why should an innocent’s birthday forever be shadowed by dark memories?
Then the people at Ground Zero seemed ashy ghosts, limping and staggering down scarcely visible streets. Today families file into the Memorial, most heading for the bronze panels incised with the names of their dead. Light flows through; names will be illuminated day and night. Children make rubbings; others leave flags, flowers, photos. The photos bloomed that first September 11 too, images hastily copied and plastered to fences, bus shelters, storefront windows, flyers of the missing posted all over the city, relatives wanting someone, everyone, to know the specificity of the lost—See, here my son, daughter, wife, sister, brother, mother, father, this is where they worked, this is what they did.
Now readers name others before naming their own. Solemn in spectacles and suit, a nine-year old boy says, “I wish I could have met you, Daddy, but I was in Mommy’s belly when you died.” How irreplaceable the richness of the almost ten years our first grandchild Sasha has had with his father—and mother.
Yet that solemn boy goes on as do we—amid the tolling of the church bells, the reading of the names, the falling of the water into those reflecting pools. In our firstborn grandchild’s baby book is a letter his father wrote him on the day of his birth—September 20, 2011. After recounting the events of 9/11, he said, “Even though September 11 was the day our world changed, today is the day that changed me more.”