On Sept. 11 I became painfully aware of how ridiculous individual daily existence can appear when viewed from a broader perspective.
My day felt surreal, and I suspect its pales in comparison with hours many of you lived. Let us start a record, in print, for the aid of future historians. Though most will probably be more interested in the testimonies of New York firefighters, I’m sure a Yalie in 2101 will appreciate our efforts.
My day started at 9 a.m. with a call from my grandmother on my cell phone, which I didn’t answer because that would be positive reinforcement of what I considered at the time, negative behavior. My first waking thoughts of the day were “My grandmother needs a life.”
That’s what I thought on my first conscious moment on what might prove the most historically memorable day of my life — or might not, depending on what’s to come.
“She needs a life. I must find my grandmother a boyfriend.” Beat that in terms of poignant self-absorption. If not, I win.
And it gets better. I got up, dressed and went to breakfast. On my way there I ignored a phone call from my sometimes boyfriend because he’s suppose to be giving me “space.”
And another from my mother. I actually like my mother very much and have imposed no arbitrary moratoriums on our communications as of late.
But I was on the toilet seat when she called, and for some reason I have always felt answering your phone while conducting business in a public stall is somehow, inexplicably, in poor taste. Pathetic and absurd. Can you match it?
Thus I didn’t find out what had happened until 10:30. While I was pondering, somewhere in the recesses of my consciousness, the sudden penchant of people for their cell phones, my mother called back. Got to love mothers.
For the rest of the day I dodged classes and instead engaged in conversation with the following personas.
First, the fatalist. The person sitting in the center of the couch — the clicker fascist who was cheerfully humming, “It’s the end of the world as we know it,” and feeling fine.
Not sure if you met a fatalist? She kept reminding all that the worst was yet to come. In one room, someone predicted we would be asked by our children where we were when the World Trade Center toppled.
“Only,” reminded our resident fatalist, “if we live to see our children.”
Next, the Canadian. Who was packing. And who offered to let me crash with him in Alberta because he is Canadian and inherently decent. What are they feeding those children?
Third, the caretaker. The one who gave freely and generously of her shoulder, her room, her cigarettes. A campus creative, more often then not, who encouraged everyone to share how they were feeling. And took notes.
Finally, the humanitarian. True, in times of peace, he hasn’t forgiven me for not sleeping on Beinecke in a tent. But Tuesday I found myself punching the wall right next to him because for the first time I had an inkling of the desire and frustration he shoulders daily.
And though he probably still thinks I’m too superficial to merit the air I breathe, he hugged me hard on Tuesday. Because I’m human and I’m here. On this day everyone got free points. Just for being human and here.
Cynical, empathetic or angry? I’m sure there were others characters you encountered within these hallowed halls. The displays of emotion or lack thereof — we were all acting in one way or another. Trying to process the horror, while simultaneously, frantically constructing a face to present to Yale.
But in the end, I left the fatalist, the caretaker and the humanitarian behind, in my peers and in myself. I ceased wandering and settled in front of the television with my deepest, truest friends at Yale.
And after the e-mails, the vigils, the words upon words, we sat silent and expressionless staring at the screen watching into the early morning.
I called my grandmother. My sometimes boyfriend. And my mother.
And I ended the day only two truths wealthier than I had started: I was incredibly, unreasonably lucky, and my life would never be the same.
Sarah Treem is a senior in Branford College.