Memories Are Empty – A 9/11 Story

He stood on the littered blacktop streets of a strange city. There was a grayness that pervaded the light, blunting its effect into a muted dimness. Something wasn’t right. The normal sounds of a city were missing. Instead, they were replaced by a dull roaring, like the sound of the ocean when you hold a seashell up to your ear.

Smoke billowed down the street, the tall buildings on either side of him forming a funnel. His eyes teared a bit as he peered into the source of the brownish, billowing cloud. He could not see its source. Papers fluttered on the breeze all about him. It seemed as if the air was full of them.

Where were the people? How could a city of this size be devoid of human life? The smoke; the paper, the lack of people: what was this place? Why was he here? What was he supposed to do?

The papers continued to dance in the air. Some fell at his feet, but most continued wafting down the way. The smoke should have left him a coughing wreck, but it stayed out of his lungs, somehow. He could breathe normally, though his eyes still stung. He decided to walk towards the heart of the smoke. He didn’t know what else to do.

As he moved along, he saw cars abandoned in the road. Some had doors standing open. Windshields were broken and tires flattened. Again, he looked around for some sign of life. There was no one. There weren’t even any birds in the sky. Dust and debris were several inches deep upon the ground. It was like a blanket of refuse. Shards of glass and jagged pieces of metal, some quite large, were lying all around. He had to walk carefully.

As he moved up the street, he saw flames high in the sky, flickering through the smoke, which grew heavier. He realized that there must be a building on fire. That would explain the wreckage around him. No, there was too much of it. There had to be more. The smoke cleared somewhat at ground level as he approached what must be the source of the fire. He saw the base of the immensely tall building that was burning heavily. Next to it were the shattered remains of what had been another skyscraper. It had collapsed to the street. Now he understood where so much of the debris had come from. Something terrible had happened, completely destroying a huge building and nearly doing the same to a second. What could possibly have caused this?

As he stared upwards at the flames pouring from the upper portion of the still-standing skyscraper, he once again wondered why he was here and what he was seeing.

Suddenly, a voice that came from both inside his head and from all around him whispered: “You will see, but you will not remember. You will remember, but you will not know. You will know, but you will not understand. You will understand, but you will never.”

It repeated this mantra, over and over. He clasped his hands over his ears and bent forward, almost in half, trying to shut it out. It was no use. The words were burning into his very being. They echoed in his head. Instantly, he saw the two towers before him standing tall and whole. He gasped as he recognized them. A few seconds later, a memory of a dream came to him. A vision of carnage seared itself into his mind. The images came back of the bodies and the wrecked building in Oklahoma City. He shut his eyes to get rid of the pictures, hands still around his head. It didn’t work.

“Not another one,” he whispered. “No, no, no!” He couldn’t breathe. There would be another disaster tomorrow. He fell to his knees and rocked himself back and forth. The dream only came to him immediately before the catastrophe struck. He recalled those that had happened in the past. He saw the loss of life and property that would follow the very next day. He had been given the curse of a dream vision that only he could see. And he knew that when he woke up the next morning he wouldn’t remember this dream. The event would occur, and he would be as horrified and shocked as the rest of the world. But at this exact moment, he knew exactly what was coming to the world on the morn.

Letting out a howl of anguish from the depths of his soul, he staggered to his feet and threw his arms up in the air in a futile act of supplication.

He shot upright in his bed. Sweat covered his chest and the sheets were stuck to him. He must have had a nightmare. It had been several years since the last one. That was the night of April 18, 1995. The Oklahoma City bombing had occurred the very next day. He must have sensed something in the vibrations of the cosmos that night.

Whistling as he adjusted his tie and headed off to his job with Federal Express in the World Trade Center, he knew that today, September 11, 2001, would have to be better than the day after his last nightmare.

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