Letter to Maria
by Karl Soehnlein

clip art of a woman walking a dog in front of a big building

Dear Maria,

I'm so glad to hear from you. Seems like everyone I know is safe, but shaken, of course.  I've been watching TV for 24 hours, with a sense of shock and helplessness, and also with tears in my eyes. I find myself wishing I was in NYC; it feels so strange to be away at a time like this, especially since I've been out of touch with everyone ("all circuits are busy"), wondering if they were OK.  Out here there's an emotional distance that feels wrong. I think my connection is not just to the friends I have in New York but to the city itself; the blow to the World Trade Center is like a blow to one of my friend's houses, or a favorite coffee shop or movie theater. I remember being up there at age 13 with my Auntie Dee, watching one of the most beautiful sunsets I'd ever seen.

Yesterday everything shut down in SF so there were many people in the streets; it was like a holiday but no one was having fun. It was very hushed. All the ex-New Yorkers are taking it very hard. John--who broke the news to me on the phone yesterday morning--gathered up Kevin and I, and with his boyfriend Warren, we went to Safeway to stocked up on canned food and water, not sure, early in the day, whether or not we were going to war, or how extensive the damage was (for a while CNN was showing footage from Afghanistan of bombs going off, and we thought Bush had attacked; it turned out to be an Afghani civil war action). John and I had a meltdown in the soup aisle, laughing hysterically at ourselves trying to decide if we needed 6 or 12 cans of chicken stock--with our without MSG?--for our  "survival rations." He wound up in a fetal position on the floor. I suppose it's all good planning for an earthquake; we're supposed to stock up in San Francisco. Mostly it just points to the absurdity that arises out of genuine fear and confusion, and helplessness.

I find myself angry at the things I hear people saying. On one hand there's the guy mouthing off at the place where I get my morning coffee who's almost smug at the idea of the Pentagon being bombed, never mind who got killed; on the other is one of my friend's (supposedly) liberal mother, who told her "we have to bomb something in response right away to Send A Message." I myself have been very quiet, and very exhausted, just numbed, or overwhelmed, by the reality. The Fucking World Trade Center Collapsed!!! I just don't get it; on some level, it just won't click into place for me.

There's a vigil in an hour downtown, co-sponsored by Jewish and Palestinian Peace Groups, which I'll go to, just to connect with people. I don't know if it will be worthwhile or not, but I feel pretty isolated in general. Thursday I have to lead my writing workshop at SF State; I guess I'll ask them to write about the events... It all seems inadequate.

I love you.



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