09 April 2007

Flying Tincans

For a year after September 11, 2001, I was unable to watch a jet plane take off or land without picturing it accelerating into a building. I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

But the memories linger even now. While not "personally" affected by what happened in New York City on September 11 over five years ago, the after-shocks of 9/11 continue to ripple, even in my own life.

When my plane landed at DTW three weeks ago, there was a moment when I imagined what it would feel like to be in a plane that wasn't going to land. What if I suddenly realized that the people piloting my plane were intent on turning it into a missile of destruction? The sensation left me a little dizzy, even five years after airliners punched holes through the top floors of the World Trade Center buildings.

And for whatever reason, I am suddenly drawn to stories of air disasters. When I was in the Frankfurt Airport, I picked up "The Boy Who Fell From the Sky," by Ken Dornstein, the little brother of one of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103, which blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December of 1988. I couldn't put it down, although to be honest it wasn't the story of the plane's destruction that drew me to this story, it was the story of the brother's self-destructive life that drew me in. It was my story. We were the same age within a month, the brother who died, and surely if I had fallen out of the sky in 1988 my obituary would have resembled his. I had so much "potential." How tragic to die when all anyone can say of you is that you had "potential."

There were other similarities, too. An inability to commit to people who loved me; an unwillingness to grow up; coming to work late in the hopes that I would be fired from a job I hated but was afraid to leave; giving up on my writing career after suffering a few rejections; the list goes on and on.

The main difference between his life and mine is that I was perhaps more determined to survive than David Dornstein, who imagined with the not-unusually-dramatic pathos of youth that he would die young, and tragically (possibly in a plane crash), and then did. Instead, I lived to realize that it was not a tragedy to be good at my job, and that I was perhaps not cut out to be a writer, despite the fact that I can write. Maybe when I -- like David -- realized that I wanted the attention that would come from writing The Great American Novel more than that I had anything important to say, it was enough for me to realize that this meant I should not be a writer, at least not until I had something to say.

Now I just need to figure out how to live again. I know I can do it; I just wish I could find someone I can imagine spending the rest of my life with who feels the same way about me. I'm tired of fighting for everything on my own. I miss having a partner; I miss having someone who has my back. I miss having someone else's back. I feel as if I've proved I'm capable of living on my own; now I'm ready to live my life as part of a team.

But this post was supposed to be about airplanes. In my stack of movies I plan to watch one day when I'm not too tired to stay up after my son goes to sleep? United 93.

Because when you're about to move overseas and plan to be a frequent flyer on transcontinental flights, you want to be thinking about air disasters at all times.

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