Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ground Zero card table

She lugged the cooler full of water bottles, which had previously been stuffed under her bed and in her tiny pantry, into the hallway and down the elevator. On her back was a pack full of granola bars and anything else she thought a dirty, sweaty rescue worker might want after patiently stepping over and around rubble, looking for survivors. She went back for the folding card table she used for Scrabble nights with her neighbors, back when neighbors still did that sort of thing, grabbing a table cloth (a pattern of grays and blacks, so it wouldn’t show the grime and ash which, a few hours after the tragedy, coated everything and was everywhere).

The deserted street was interrupted by groups of site workers going to or coming from what she’d later call Ground Zero, workers who were firefighters or EMTs or construction workers. Today they were all from New York, though in the days to come, when she ran out of food and water but still took down to her card table towels soaked in tap water, they’d be from Philly and Central Jersey and Stamford, Connecticut.

Some wanted to talk. Some were tired, eyes and blood and heart fatigued. They sat on the curb with her for a minute before heading back to the firehouse, where she imagined they’d sit in a stupor a little longer, a weary and heavy silence among the greater silence blanketing the city and the nation. She wanted her damp towels to wipe clean the grief which deepened every day, every hour, when they learned there would be no pulling of survivors every few minutes, no need for the blood drives people came to, arms at the ready.

She sat on the ashy curb every day, all day, and was tired, taking sadness from the workers. She never wondered what they saw, or what it was like. She sat with them and knew that knowing as they knew was too much.

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