Over and over on Tuesday I heard this from anchors and witnesses alike:
"It was like watching a movie."
"Like something out of a movie."
It was nothing like a movie.
I broke down and cried. Not as I watched dark human forms drop from the two towers to the street.
And not when I watched -- "live" -- as the north tower pushed fast down to the ground, sending up a thick fountain of pulverized concrete. No, I cried when I tried to call a friend in New York to see if she was all right. The phone lines were jammed, so I tried e-mail. And as I wrote, I found myself shaking with tears. This was nothing I've ever felt in any movie, nothing I'd ever want to feel.
Like Armageddon brought home.
It's absurd, but for hours I couldn't leave my house. I was afraid even to look out my window.
And yet, it was like a movie.
It's what we do now when something exceeds our imagination, when the scale of an experience gets too vast. We call it a movie.
For better or worse, most of us never see devastation in real life. Movies are where we get these images. So it was like a movie.
And beyond the spectacle and the sensation it provided, there's the awful, horrific drama of it.
Immediately, we knew what this event meant. It had a history. Someone was striking not just at America but at symbols of American power. Tuesday afternoon I found myself drawn to the financial towers at King and Bay. I just wanted to stand there and feel it -- the ordinariness, the vulnerability, the power of the concrete, the possibility.
The place was nearly deserted apart from cops and one lone TV truck. Two guys strolled toward me, talking loud and swinging their arms wide. As they got closer I realized they were describing the moment when the towers collapsed, passing the story back and forth between them, running it over in their own language. They were turning it back, perhaps, into a movie.
Perhaps it's what we need. But I can't stand to think that our imaginations are so constrained, our hearts so constricted that this felt like something as trivial as a movie. Even though movies are my life.